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Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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Sexual abuse


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.


Another witness said he was sexually abused by Mr Restin in the same way on one occasion. He remembered being called into Mr Restin’s office and told to take down his trousers, whereupon Mr Restin fondled his genitals. He was under the impression that Mr Restin was a doctor in Cappoquin. He thought he was aged around six or seven when this occurred.


A further witness recalled that the children were told one Saturday they were going to receive an injection. They were told to go to the old school (St Ita’s) and line up in the hallway. Mr Restin had a small room off one of the classrooms. The boy was brought in and told to drop his underwear. Mr Restin and Sr Lorenza were present, and Sr Lorenza began to feel his testicles and she told him they were normal. He then remembered getting an injection in the buttocks.


One other witness gave evidence that, although he himself was not abused by Mr Restin, he remembered him. There was a lot of talk amongst the boys about his giving injections, touching bottoms and things like that, but he never touched him. He was close to one of the Sisters and thought Mr Restin would have been afraid he would talk. He never spoke to the Sisters about what he heard.


Sr Viviana worked in Cappoquin at the same time as Mr Restin. He was a nurse and, to her recollection, had a lot to do with the boys. He drove a bus and brought children to the swimming pool. She said that, as a nurse, he would have taken care of their health. She did not recall him giving injections, but there was a room in Cappoquin that was called the surgery, and she often met him coming in and out of there. She said she was always uneasy about Mr Restin, although was not specific as to why: ‘There was something about the man that I didn’t tune in to’.


Another nun, Sr Clarice, described the circumstances of Mr Restin’s departure. At the time, she was the teaching principal of the girls’ primary school in Cappoquin and a former Superior of the convent. She had contact with the Industrial School because some of the children attended the primary school and she also helped out at weekends and holiday periods. She remembered Mr Restin as a kind of supervisor in the institution. He was an assistant leader in the Scouts. One day a scout leader warned her about him saying ‘Sr Clarice, go home to Sr Carina and tell her to try and get rid of Mr Restin and do that soon’.


She went straight to the convent and told the Superior; together, they went to see the Resident Manager, who listened attentively. The manager said that Mr Restin was due to bring the children for an outing the following day and she would put a stop to that. She got rid of him soon after that. The scout leader explained that, while sexual abuse was not spelled out to her by the local man, she sensed the meaning and urgency of the message he was conveying. She said in evidence that she never discussed Mr Restin’s previous work history with anybody. She did become aware afterwards that he had worked in Passage West in the industrial school, because there was a Sister in Cappoquin who had a sibling, also a Sister, in Passage West: and I think she wrote to her, but it was only just – I never read the letter and I never knew anything, but it was really on the urgency of [the local man], that’s how I went to the Superior and that’s how we went to (the Resident Manager).


Mr Restin left Cappoquin suddenly. He did not now remember the circumstances and he thought someone may have said something to the nuns about him abusing boys.


There is very little information about where Mr Restin was between the time he left Cappoquin in the mid-1970s and his departure for England in the late 1970s. He said that after Cappoquin he went to work in Cork before he left for England. Initially, he worked in a bar and then returned to nursing.


Mr Restin’s unsuitability for work with children was clear from his time in Passage West, but that information was not effectively communicated to Cappoquin. Although his unsuitability to take part in a childcare course was known to the management of Passage West and to the Department Inspector, he was able to remain in his position in Cappoquin. If proper inquiries had been made, he should not have been employed in Cappoquin. Children had complained about Mr Restin’s abuse, but action was only taken when an adult raised the alarm. Children were not listened to or believed when they spoke about what was happening to them, and this allowed abuse to continue.


Witnesses from Cappoquin gave evidence about visits by boys to the Cistercian Abbey at Mount Melleray. One former resident alleged that he had been sexually abused there in the course of a weekend visit.


Mount Melleray Abbey is situated about four miles from Cappoquin and is run by the Cistercian Order. There was no formal relationship between Mount Melleray Abbey and St. Michael’s Cappoquin. Informally, however, it would appear that eggs were delivered weekly to the industrial school from the poultry farm and twice a year surplus apples were delivered. Some minor plumbing work was carried out by a monk on occasions and a priest monk from the Abbey went weekly to hear the nuns confessions and to say Mass when the local priest was on holidays. The Sisters also negotiated the transfer of a site from the Abbey farm to accommodate their group homes in or around 1972.

  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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