Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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Sexual abuse


Mr Restin agreed with the suggestion that the moves to Passage West and subsequently to Cappoquin might have been deliberate, to gain access to young boys. He admitted that he sexually abused a number of boys – he recalled around five in Passage West, but he denied ever forcing any boys to engage in oral sex, as had been alleged. He described how he had a routine, and that oral sex was not part of it. He also denied that he had ever raped boys, and he told the Committee the reason: I suppose the fact that I was raped myself, it was something that I found extremely offensive and it is something I have never done.


Mr Restin admitted abusing one of the complainants who gave evidence about abuse in Passage West.


The complainant was admitted to Passage West in the early 1970s. When his mother died in the late 1960s, he became involved in petty crime and he was committed by the District Court to Passage West until he was aged 16.


Soon after he arrived in Passage West, he came across Mr Restin. Initially, he thought he was friendly. The sexual abuse started soon after meeting him and continued until Mr Restin left the Institution. He was forced to engage in mutual masturbation and, after his first experience, he initially tried to avoid contact with Mr Restin by trying to keep a low profile and staying out of his way. This did not work and the abuse continued on a regular basis in a variety of locations in the Institution. He always felt under threat of a beating or punishment if he did not co-operate with Mr Restin. He then began absconding from Passage West. On one occasion, one of the nuns and Mr Restin came to the Garda Station to bring him back to the School and, when they got back, they gave him a severe beating with a stick. Another time, when he was on a visit home, his father noticed marks on his body from a beating. He told his father that Mr Restin had beaten him, and his father planned to confront Mr Restin when he called to collect him after the weekend to bring him back to Passage West. Some form of altercation took place, and it required the intervention of the Resident Manager and her assistant, before his father agreed to allow him to return to the School. He did not tell his family about the sexual abuse at the time.


Some time later, he realised that Mr Restin was abusing others. He began to notice signs as boys emerged eating sweets, having spent some time with Mr Restin. He and two other boys went to the Resident Manager, Sr Vita, in her room and told her what Mr Restin was doing. She seemed sympathetic and asked them to name the boys who were being abused. He named about 12 to 15 boys, and the other boys named a few. He was called to her room later that evening, where the boys he had named were lined up. The Manager asked them in turn if Mr Restin was ‘doing stuff’ to them, and all the boys except for one denied it. The witness and the other boy who confirmed the abuse were taken to the hall and given beatings, which were so severe that the other boy was injured and required stitches. The witness absconded a few days later with two other boys. He thought that he was not caught for about two and half weeks and did not recall being punished, which he felt was because the Resident Manager was well aware of why he ran away. Mr Restin did not bother him after that, and he could not remember when Mr Restin left Passage West.


Mr Restin had to engage in protracted correspondence with his employers as he sought leave from the hospital where he worked to attend the childcare course in Kilkenny. This leave was finally granted in the early 1970s, but he did not attend the course either in the year the leave was granted or the following year.


The records show that in one particular academic year 19 persons attended the Kilkenny childcare course instead of the usual 20, and Mr Restin was not one of them. It appears that his application was blocked as a result of an unfavourable response given by Sr Vita to a query made by a Department of Education official in reference to Mr Restin’s suitability for the post.


Another complainant who gave evidence recalled the arrival of Mr Restin. His memory was that one of the pupils was not well and went to hospital. On his return, Mr Restin was with him. He understood he was a nurse and was there to attend to medical issues. He fell off a bicycle and hurt his testicles and sustained a number of bruises in that area. He went to see Mr Restin who brought him into his cubicle off the dormitory. He applied cream to the affected area. Mr Restin then undressed and told the complainant to masturbate him, which he did. Mr Restin then gave him sweets and told him to keep quiet. The witness said that he had to masturbate Mr Restin in this way on several occasions.


He said that Mr Restin raped him on three occasions. The first time, it happened in a field to which Mr Restin had driven him. The second was in Mr Restin’s cubicle in the dormitory, and the third in an old disused train carriage in the school grounds. He said Mr Restin punched and beat him on the back during one rape. After the last occasion, he did everything in his power to avoid Mr Restin, by staying close to the other boys and his brothers. He said he then built up courage to go to the head nun in the convent, which was separate from the School. He said he told her at the front entrance to the convent that Mr Restin was sexually abusing him. She told him to go back to the School and she would speak to somebody about it. Some time later, Sr Vita called him and accused him of spreading wicked lies and gave him a severe beating. Soon after this, Mr Restin left.


Sr Vita worked in Mount St Joseph’s Industrial School in Passage West from the early 1940s to the early 1980s, and was Resident Manager from the early 1970s until she left. She was a qualified nurse. She is now deceased. Her evidence was taken on commission at a nursing home in Cork. Sr Vita’s recollection was that the first complainant above told her about Mr Restin, who had threatened to do something to him and to a number of younger boys. She said that she asked him whether Mr Restin had threatened to beat him, to which he replied that he had not. She did not pursue the matter further ‘in my innocence and ignorance I suppose’ and said she did not know what the boy could have meant, although she did believe that he had been threatened by Mr Restin. She sent for Mr Restin, but he had left the Institution by then. She never saw him again. She said that she phoned Cappoquin looking for him but he was not there. In a statement made to the Gardaí she said: After [the complainant] had told me about [Mr Restin] I tried to contact him in Cappoquin. I wanted to talk with him to find out if it was true or false what [the complainant] had said. I did not get to speak with him, I left a message for him to contact me, but he did not.


In the Garda statement she added: I sent word to Cappoquin Orphanage through a nun here that I felt that [Mr Restin] was not a suitable person to be with children.


Mr Restin’s evidence was that he did not believe he was asked to leave Passage West, nor did he think Sr Vita knew he had abused boys there. He arranged to move to Cappoquin while he was still working in Passage West. He was vague in his evidence as to how the job arose. He believed that he met Sr Isabella from Cappoquin while he was doing an interview for the childcare course at Waterford Regional Technical College. Cappoquin was nearer to Waterford than Passage West, and would be more convenient if he was doing the course. He believed that he might have told Sr Isabella he was thinking of doing the course, and thought that she suggested that he contact Cappoquin.


The job he got in Cappoquin involved general childcare duties, and teaching a remedial class of boys who had reading difficulties. He said that he assumed he would have sought a reference from Sr Vita for the course and for his move to Cappoquin, but there was no record of any such request or reference on file in either Cappoquin or Passage West. The records show that, while Mr Restin was in Passage West, he was also spending time in Cappoquin Industrial School. In the early 1970s, an official from the Department of Education carried out a general inspection of Cappoquin Industrial School and reported that: A ... nurse ... visits the school every few weeks to lend assistance in placements (he helps out similarly in the Passage West School in Cork).


Mr Restin thought that he abused three boys in Cappoquin. He described the method he used to get to know the child. He said he never used threats and just became friendly with them and then ‘they would literally do what you want’. He gave rewards such as sweets but rarely gave money. He said he would stop if the boys wanted him to and denied that he ever forced them.


A former resident said that Mr Restin began to abuse him when he was aged 10. The abuse started when Mr Restin came into his dormitory one night, woke him and brought him to his bedroom. Mr Restin fondled his genitals and made the boy do the same to him. On another occasion, when Mr Restin was giving injections, he again molested the boy. He told the boy that, if he did not tell anyone, he would get a pair of roller skates. Mr Restin continued to abuse the boy in this way until his sudden departure from the School.

  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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