This complicated and difficult story of repeated sexual abuse is recounted here because the perpetrator’s behaviour was first recorded in the Christian Brothers’ records relating to Salthill. The Brother’s history reveals a pattern of abuse extending over a period of 25 years in different schools. It illustrates the recidivist nature of sexual abuse, and the difficulties of reporting it.
Br Dacian had spent only four months in Salthill in the early 1960s when he was transferred in great haste to a day school in Dublin. A Visitor at that time noted: Br Dacian has been guilty of a grave indiscretion with one of the boys and I’m afraid he will have to be changed. He was otherwise most suited to this place and an ardent worker.
In a letter to the Superior General following his Visitation, the Visitor elaborated on Br Dacian’s indiscretion. A pupil reported to the Superior that one night he had been awakened by somebody who had his hand inside his pyjamas touching his genitals. He could only make out an outline of the man but, by his shape and the sound of his voice, he recognised him as Br Dacian. When the boy awoke, the man had said to him that this was a serious matter and that he should not tell anyone.
The Visitor confronted Br Dacian about the allegation and he confessed that he was the person involved. However, he offered the explanation that he had merely been checking to see whether the boy had wet the bed, as he was a regular bed-wetter. But, as the Visitor noted, ‘it is apparent that this does not explain everything’. Br Dacian assured the Visitor that he did not have any ‘inclination this way’ and that this was the first time anything like that had happened. The Visitor was ‘inclined to believe him’ but thought that a transfer was necessary, as other boys were aware of Br Dacian’s lapse. The Visitor lamented that this change was necessary as ‘he was a very good choice for that school where self-sacrificing men are so necessary’.
The next occasion of a documented complaint against Br Dacian was some 25 years later, when he was Principal of a primary school in the west of Ireland.
The Archbishop of the area sent for Br Tyeis,15 the Superior of Br Dacian’s Community, and told him that he had received a formal complaint that Br Dacian was interfering sexually with a boy in the School. The prelate gave the boy’s Christian name but said that he could not remember the surname. The Superior undertook to investigate the matter.
Br Tyeis did not have enough information so he telephoned the Archbishop’s secretary for more details. The boy was Tom Murphy,16 a first year pupil in the secondary school, and his parents had gone some days previously to the Vice-Principal of the primary school to report what had happened. He sent them to the school chaplain because, as he later explained, he was too shocked by the allegations to do anything about them. The chaplain was unavailable so they spoke to another Curate, who in turn referred them to the Archbishop’s secretary. They made their complaint to him that Br Dacian was sexually interfering with their son and that they believed that Br Dacian had also interfered with other boys whom they named.
The Superior, Br Tyeis, now had the details of the complaint against Br Dacian. He went to him on the same day as he had met the Archbishop and spoken to the secretary. Br Dacian admitted that he had interfered with Tom Murphy and said that ‘the relationship’ had been going on for two years.
Br Tyeis met the parents shortly afterwards in the Brothers’ residence. Mr Murphy was angry, and he and his wife were seeking an apology in writing from Br Dacian. They did not propose to take legal action because they feared that the publicity would not be good for their son. They were unclear as to the details of the abuse but they suspected that anal intercourse might have taken place.
The Superior talked the matter over in confidence with two Brothers in the Community, and decided that Br Dacian would have to leave the Community ‘for the present’. Br Dacian agreed and went the Cistercian Monastery in Roscrea.
The Superior reported to the Provincial that Br Dacian told him that he (Br Dacian) would have to leave the Congregation and that the Superior had responded that that might seem like the easy way out, i.e. to flee, but that there was no reason why he should have to leave. He also reported that a Brother (Br Peppin18), a friend of the Murphys who stayed with them when he was in the West, had recounted to him that the Murphys had recently said that they were suspicious that something in the nature of sexual interference was going on and that Br Dacian was involved, but Br Peppin said he had discounted the possibility.
The Provincial then visited Br Dacian in Roscrea and had a full discussion with him. There is no record of this conversation in the discovered documentation. Two weeks later, another meeting took place at Cluain Mhuire, the provincial house for the St Mary’s Province in Dublin, when Br Dacian maintained that he had nothing new to tell.
The Provincial did not meet the Murphys until some five weeks after the matter was originally reported. At this meeting with the Provincial, Br Travis, and the Superior, Br Tyeis, Mr Murphy complained about the delay, and expressed his annoyance at Br Travis’s failure to contact them. He had found it very hard to get the Provincial’s phone number. Br Travis explained that the Provincial headquarters in Marino was undergoing major renovations, which was why they had got no response from someone who could help them. He then explained that he himself had not contacted them because he had been told that Mr Murphy had stated that he did not trust the Brothers and was certain that they would want to cover up for Br Dacian and do nothing about the allegations.
Br Travis told the Murphys that he appreciated that they were very upset, as were the Brothers. They were shocked by the allegations. He said that Br Dacian was very upset. Mrs Murphy became angry at the mention of Br Dacian being upset and said that he was ‘cute and intelligent’ in the way he operated. The Provincial pointed out that he had interrupted his schedule and postponed appointments to come to the meeting and that he wanted to hear the allegations from them first hand. The Brothers questioned the Murphys about the origins of rumours in the locality and also about media coverage, following which the Provincial sought details about the complaints. The Murphys related how the matter came to their attention. They said that they still did not have an admission from Tom that Br Dacian had had anal intercourse with him, and they explained why they were suspicious that that had happened.
The Provincial expressed his concern regarding the allegations and said that he had full trust in the inquiries that the Superior was making. He said that he himself had taken the allegations most seriously and was carrying out a thorough, professional, private investigation. He said that he was aware that there was an independent inquiry being conducted by the Health Board. He could not reveal who he had been contacting, and the Murphys appreciated this. He said he wanted to get the truth regarding Tom and Br Dacian. In the light of his findings and those of the Health Board, he would take whatever action was required, ‘but we must have the truth first’.