Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

Show Contents

Physical abuse


Although Sr Isabella treated him in the infirmary for the injuries he had received from this beating, she would not believe that they had been inflicted by a staff member.


Physical punishment in Cappoquin continued after the Industrial School had been closed and the group homes were established. One care worker in Group Home A described seeing a child with marks on her legs as a result of a beating by Sr Callida.


Mr Lloyd, who succeeded Sr Callida as Resident Manager, reported that children had told him of beatings and punishments that were completely inappropriate and severe.


Sr Callida was asked whether she had ever beaten any of the children, and she said that there were three episodes that stood out in her mind. She was Resident Manager during the 1980s, when there was almost universal opposition to physical punishment of children.


One complainant described an incident that occurred in the evening when all the boys were in one room watching television. He alleged that he was being sexually abused by two older boys, and this aspect of the story is told below. These older boys had been transferred from Artane and they were put in charge of all the boys in the evening, when the lay staff and the nuns were off duty. They had canes and used them on the boys: my brother was being belted with this bamboo stick by the other man ... he was crying and I heard my brother crying and I was sitting down looking at the television ... I just turned around and as he had it over his shoulder like that I caught it and I said to him, "if you don’t stop now I am going tell what you are doing to me."


The sexual abuse stopped after that incident.


He said that boys could receive beatings from these older boys for minor things: He could have told him “pick up that piece of paper on the ground there” and we would keep looking at the television and that would rise him, so he would just go to him and pull him out of the chair.


He said the beatings could be ‘Across the legs, across the backside and the hands’.


A number of older boys exercised this kind of unsupervised authority over the children during the evening. They instilled fear into the younger boys by beating them with canes.


He thought that the management of the School must have known about this: They must have known it. Yeah, they must have known. I believe they did know it ... Them boys didn’t take it upon themselves to say, "come on ... we will get the sticks and we’ll look after these boys." They obviously got authority from someone to do it and they didn’t get it from us.


The Sisters have submitted that, as only one witness gave evidence that older boys were given power over the younger boys and none of the staff or Sisters involved at the time are in a position to give evidence to the contrary, the evidence is so tenuous that no conclusions adverse to the Sisters could reasonably be supported. However, the abuser in this case gave a statement to the Gardaí, admitting the sexual abuse and acknowledging that he was left in charge of the younger boys in the evening.


Although all of the complainants from Cappoquin described physical punishment or abuse, many recalled particular nuns who were good or kind to them.


One nun who came in for special praise was Sr Isabella. When asked what it was about Sr Isabella that singled her out, one witness said: ... What was it that made Sr [Isabella] the best of them? I never actually seen her being violent with anyone. I never seen her being violent with myself. To me, she was a good caring kind of a woman. But done her job. If someone needed chastising – if someone needed chastising she would shout, point her finger. I never actually seen her hitting anyone, or she never hit me.


Another witness said of Sr Isabella: ... there is one nun that I still write to ... Sr Isabella, who was outstanding, and I would have to say that of all the nuns there, she was the one that – she ran the infirmary, I think, if my memory serves me right. But she would have been one that probably exhibited what should have been rather than what was ...


Another complainant, who made allegations against a man he was fostered out to from Cappoquin, went even further: You know, if you wanted to find good people Sr Isabella, Sr Carina and Sr Serafina24 were three walking saints. It is just the staff I didn’t like.

  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.