Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

Show Contents



Although she accepted that some people stayed overnight in the homes from time to time, ‘I don’t accept that they were allowed roam around’. She said that the only people who stayed over were past pupils and her own brother. She did not accept evidence from the staff members that one past pupil in particular was a regular visitor and was often drunk: No, I never saw Mr Owens drunk. But ... his co-ordination was so poor that he fumbled and stumbled. ... Mr Owens stayed twice.


She did not accept the belief, held by members of staff and some members of the Community, that she had a domineering and intimidating management style and that people feared her, nor did she accept the evidence that, following her removal, she was insubordinate and interfered with the new management in the group homes.


Even at this remove, Sr Callida was unable to explain to the Committee what went wrong in Cappoquin during her tenure: ‘I don’t know what went wrong. I just don’t know ... Because we had great times and good times and happy times’.’


It was clear from her evidence to the Investigation Committee that Sr Callida did not have any real insight into how she was perceived by other people. She believed she was a good manager, that the children and staff were happy, and that staff problems stemmed from the personality of one member of staff who was spiteful towards her.


One of the Sisters who gave evidence gave a description of Sr Callida’s personality as one of great power that seemed to work towards negating the power of others. She was intimidating and forceful. This evidence was challenged, and it was suggested that the Congregation was taking a one-sided view of her relationships with people. There was, however, evidence from staff members as to the difficulties they had in communicating with her. She had a divisive style of management and was not well disposed to any criticism or suggestions.


Following her removal in the early 1990s, Sr Callida was told to stay away from the group home and children, in order to avoid confusion for the children. The Congregation had great difficulty in getting Sr Callida to comply with its wishes. Initially, she continued to come to work every day, and later she tended to stay around the grounds of Cappoquin, waiting for the children on their way to and from school. Sr Callida remained defiant, and it took almost a year to resolve these problems.


The children were let down by poor supervision and monitoring from the Departments of Education and Health. Mr Granville, the Inspector, identified staff problems in 1981. He thought that the Resident Manager was young and inexperienced. Right up to his last report, he continued to have concerns about staff rostering and the erosion of continuity with the children due to staff changes. Mr Granville had no responsibility for the Health Board children who were coming and going in the home, with little or no contact or support from social workers.


Responsibility for Cappoquin was transferred from the Department of Education to the Department of Health from 1st January 1984, but until 1991 inspections were not carried out because of lack of staff.


The South Eastern Health Board was aware of rumours, in the mid-1980s, that the Resident Manager was absenting herself from the Centre and was drinking heavily. There was no formal inspection system. An official paid a surprise visit to the Centre, when he found the Resident Manager present. He was satisfied with what he saw and did not take any action. He did not speak to any of the children or to the staff or to the nuns in the Community. The Resident Manager was removed in the early 1990s for the very concerns that were being spoken about.


In its Submission to the Investigation Committee, the Congregation pointed out that suspicions of child abuse did not form any part of the reason for the dismissal of the Resident Manager by the Superior in the early 1990s. It submitted that all the evidence and contemporaneous documents were consistent with the reason for her dismissal being her inappropriate drinking and major staff communication problems, with the obvious knock-on effect these had for the children in the home.


The Congregation submits that discreet steps were taken in response to concerns expressed by members of the Community and by people outside. One sister was asked to be a companion to Sr Callida in the hope that she would be a good influence because she did not drink. However, that did not happen. Instead, as the Congregation submission put it, the two nuns: developed a relationship with each other. This may have had an impact on [Sr Melita’s] capacity to observe [Sr Callida’s] behaviour in an objective manner. It was one of several unusual aspects to the Cappoquin story involving [Sr Callida] as to the manner in which (informal) human arrangements for monitoring her ran into the sand. In the event, [Sr Melita] did not transmit any concerns about [Sr Callida] to anyone in leadership. The submission refers to another nun, Sr Serena, who was ‘specifically asked to report to the diocesan leadership about whether or not there was any substance to the rumours about ‘Sr Callida’s drinking’. The Diocesan Leader was reassured that there was not but the submission admits that the system for monitoring Sr Callida failed ‘for unusual and unexpected reasons.’ This unusual matter was the development of a relationship between [Sr Callida] and [Sr Serena], which compromised [Sr Serena] and prevented the reporting system devised by [Sr Viola] from working effectively. The result was that no information of a drink problem or of any other problems reached the ears of the leadership from internal congregation sources.


There was a conflict of evidence between Sr Viola, the senior diocesan nun, and Sr Serena, the local head, as to the latter’s role in monitoring Sr Lucilla. Sr Serena testified that the only brief she had was to befriend Sr Callida and encourage her to become closer to the Community. She denied that she was ever asked to report specifically to the Diocesan Leadership about whether or not there was any substance to the rumours about the drinking. The Congregation has submitted that there was a system for monitoring Sr Callida but, for unusual and unexpected reasons, the system failed.


The problems that faced Mr Lloyd, when he arrived in Cappoquin in the early 1990s, clearly did not arise overnight. The problems were long standing and had deteriorated steadily over the years. It was well known amongst staff and members of the Congregation that the Resident Manager was drinking heavily. A number of Sisters believed that the drinking began after the death of a pupil in the late 1970s. She had been spoken to a number of times about the matter. The Resident Manager was in denial and, when one particular lay staff member complained to her about alcohol consumption on the premises, she was dismissed. Certainly, by the mid-1980s the leaders of the Community had expressed concern to the Superior of the convent about the Resident Manager’s drinking, but it took the resignation of two young lay staff members in the early 1990s to force them to address the issue properly. The mid-1990s


The Superior General of the Sisters of Mercy, kept a detailed diary of the events that unfolded over this period and recorded allegations, complaints and concerns about Sr Callida.


In the early 1990s, Sr Callida told the Superior General that she had obtained a position with the Health Board in a project involving the care of a young man. The Superior General informed the Health Board of her concern about Sr Callida’s suitability for the post because of the complaints that had come to her notice, including information from Mr Lloyd. In the course of the resulting Health Board investigation, it emerged that one of the Board’s own senior social workers had given Sr Callida a glowing reference, even though he knew that she had been dismissed from her job in Cappoquin.

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