Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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Physical abuse


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.The incidents of physical punishment described by complainants went beyond what was permitted. The children were very young, and such severe punishment was uncalled for. 2.Caning very young children was unnecessary and abusive by the standards of the time. 3.Untrained lay staff were unsupervised and given too much control over the children, and this resulted in cruelty. 4.Allowing older boys to discipline smaller children using corporal punishment was reckless and dangerous.

Sexual abuse


Mr Restin was a childcare worker in Cappoquin in the late 1970s. He had previously been employed by the Sisters of Mercy in another of their industrial schools in Passage West, County Cork, during the mid-1970s.


In the mid-1990s, Mr Restin was arrested in England and charged with three offences of indecent assault on a boy under 16 and with possession of indecent photographs of children. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, of which he served nine months. Following his prison sentence, he spent a period of four months in a psychiatric hospital because of depression and then lived in a probation hostel for a further six months. He returned to Dublin in the late 1990s.


An ex-resident of Cappoquin disclosed to his psychiatrist that he had been sexually and physically abused by a number of named individuals, including Mr Restin, whilst in the Institution. He was advised to report the abuse and, in 2000, he made a full statement to the Gardaí.


Mr Restin was interviewed by the Gardaí the following year, and admitted sexually abusing boys in Passage West and Cappoquin. Two years later, he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment: six years for possession of pornographic material, and two sentences of two years each for indecently assaulting a boy in Cappoquin and a boy in Passage West.


Mr Restin told the Committee that he did not know the identity of the two boys in respect of whom he had pleaded guilty: I am doing two years for a victim in Passage West and I am doing two years for a victim in Cappoquin and I do not know who either of those victims are, at this point ... I pleaded guilty ... I am convinced that whoever they are I ... did abuse them or I wouldn’t have said I did.


Three witnesses gave evidence that Mr Restin sexually abused them in the Industrial School in Cappoquin, and a further two witnesses described being sexually and physically abused by him in Passage West.


Mr Restin was placed with the nuns in Cappoquin at three months of age, where he remained until he was nine and a half years old. He was then transferred to St Patrick’s Industrial School, Upton and was discharged on the day before his sixteenth birthday.


Mr Restin gave evidence that he was subjected to serious sexual abuse whilst in Upton by a Priest and by a Brother.


During his time as a child in Cappoquin and Upton, he was aware of sexual activity among other boys and he also became involved. He said it was not widespread but it went on.


He became a nurse because he realised he had a problem forming relationships with adults, and thought he might be able to resolve these difficulties through his nursing vocation.


After four years’ training, he qualified as a nurse and, on one occasion, was sent on special duty to attend a patient who needed treatment in hospital in Cork. At that time, a young resident of Passage West Industrial School was in the hospital where he spent approximately one month. Mr Restin befriended the boy and got to meet the Resident Manager of Passage West, Sr Vita,26 who regularly visited the hospital. When the boy left hospital and returned to Passage West, Mr Restin began to visit Passage West at weekends, when he would spend time there, play ball with the children and occasionally have a meal with the nuns in their dining room. He said that the Resident Manager was aware of his medical training and that she also knew he was an ex-Cappoquin resident.

  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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