Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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She described how she and the children were frightened by one of these visitors: They were scared that night that Mr Owens was going around the house ... we went down to the bedroom and I had a couple of teenagers in the room with me and we all stayed there that night because we were all frightened of him. I am sure there was times when they were frightened.


Matters came to a head in the early 1990s. She realised that the children needed better support and it was not forthcoming. Having spoken with her family, she decided that she should report her concerns to the Reverend Mother of the Diocese and that she would then hand in her notice. Within two weeks, the Reverend Mother came to the home and interviewed staff.


Another witness, Ms Waters,14 was House Mother in Group Home B, the second group home at Cappoquin from the 1980s, and she gave evidence about her serious concerns at the way Group Home A was run and the impact this had on the children there.


Ms Waters started work on a part-time basis in Cappoquin in the mid-1970s, shortly before it closed as an industrial school. She did not have any formal childcare training, apart from completing a correspondence course in the early 1980s. Eventually, she became House Mother of Group Home B in the mid-1980s.


She spoke of her earliest recollections of Cappoquin: My recollection was, you know, to bring up kids – being a mother myself and to bring up kids in a home I found it always very sad for kids, you know, and I could identify with them, the sadness they were going through ... I came from a loving home myself.


She commented on the lack of love shown to the children: I found the set-up, there was a lot of children ... there was plenty of food, but giving them a hot meal and giving it to them with love, you know, and things like that, I found that was a bit lacking, you know ... and kids coming from different background and sadness, you know, it was – I felt kind of shocked because I hadn’t experienced that kind of thing.


From the time that Sr Callida became Resident Manager of the two group homes in the early 1980s, management problems arose almost immediately, as had been identified by Mr Granville in his General Inspection Report of this time.


Ms Waters gave evidence of a system that was incapable of delivering a proper level of childcare. One of her main problems was the lack of respect shown to the care staff by Sr Callida that led to unhappiness amongst the staff. They were not consulted about anything and were not even given notice of their work schedule, which was often delivered a day in advance on the back of an envelope. There was no regular timetable for rostering of staff, which made family life for the care workers very difficult.


In addition, she identified differences in the way the two homes were run. Group Home A, which was managed directly by Sr Callida, received preferential treatment in terms of finance and facilities, which impacted on the children in Group Home B.


There was very little communication between the two homes. Although she reported directly to Sr Callida, she rarely saw her. There was no formal system for staff meetings or meetings to review the children’s progress. She tried to talk to Sr Callida about the problems but she was not willing to listen. She also recalled that, during this time, there was no support from social workers for the staff and children.


She was also aware that children were experimenting with each other sexually and reported this to Sr Callida. She felt there was a need to give the children some education in the facts of life, to make them more aware, and she communicated this to the Resident Manager, but this did not happen.


Ms Waters gave an example of one incident where three children from the home – two boys and a girl – were alone in the fields adjoining the home: I remember ringing Sr Callida and, you know, my worries about the girl being down with the boys and she just kind of – it came up in the conversation I said, "what about if the girl gets pregnant?" And she kind of laughed at me and said, "it wouldn’t be you that made her pregnant." I wasn’t getting anywhere ... I went down through to the fields ... it was a very wet evening, and I had difficulty in walking through the wet – the grass was very high, it was all wet. I went down and I brought her up and the two lads went off, you know. But it was with great difficulty, she was rude and nasty to me now, but she did come up with me.


Although she spoke of her concerns to the girl’s social worker, she received no help or support from her and was left to handle the situation herself.


She said she was aware that there was a lot of drinking going on in Group Home A. Parties were held in the home, and former residents and student priests came and stayed overnight. This practice was not allowed in the home in which she was in charge, as she simply did not allow it to happen. In her opinion, the children in Group Home A were not being adequately supervised and the staff were very young: Well there was a lot of, there was a lot of drink going on, you know ... You know, I was never in the parties, but the gossip went on that they would be drinking in the house and there would be people coming visiting and there was drinking. Not in Group Home B but in Group Home A. I witnessed Sr Callida coming ... into Group Home B at one stage and she had drink ... Her voice was slurred, you know, and things like that.


She described an occasion soon after the appointment of Sr Serena as Reverend Mother to Cappoquin: I remember that day, Sr Serena had just started, she was just made Reverend Mother and she had visited Group Home B that evening, we arranged that she come and have tea with the kids and staff and Sr Callida came in that evening. The kids had just left the table and she came in and she was clearly under the influence of drink when she came in.

  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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