Br Dennis served in Artane in the late 1960s. He was questioned by the Gardaí in the early 1990s in relation to allegations of interfering with boys, in a school in the north-east of the country, on two occasions between the late 1980s and early 1990s. He denied the allegations at the time, but when questioned about them again almost 10 years later he admitted to a limited level of sexual abuse involving these boys. He also admitted to getting sexual gratification from young boys. Br Dennis told the Gardaí that in the mid-1990s his Superiors sent him to the Granada Institute, a centre for the treatment of sex offenders in Shankhill County Dublin which was operated by the St John of God Order.
Br Dennis also admitted the allegations which had been made by former residents of Artane, insofar as they described inappropriate external touching and fondling. Although these individuals alleged masturbation and anal rape, he did not admit to those more serious charges: ... I wish to say that I accept some of the allegations as being true, insofar as they describe inappropriate external touching and fondling. I deny however any of the allegations that refer to masturbation and buggery.
Only one man who had made a statement to the Gardaí about Br Dennis gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. He alleged that Br Dennis told him to clean his room and, while he was doing so, the Brother took out his penis and then ‘he brought my head down onto his penis which was erect and he rubbed it against my lips’. On another occasion when he was sent to clean the room, Br Dennis ‘started fondling me and played with my penis. He pressed himself against me and ejaculated’. The witness described a third incident that he said took place, in a derelict area near the playing fields, at holiday time when most of the boys had gone home for holidays. He said that this time the Brother had his penis out and attempted penetration, but gave up when the boy screamed with pain.
Br Dennis attended an oral hearing of the Investigation Committee. He admitted to a limited degree of sexual activity with nine- to 12-year-old boys in Artane. He was asked how he began to abuse. He said: I don’t know how it came about really. At the time I probably deluded myself into thinking that I was being kind to them and using it as a way of encouraging them and making them – I mean, I don’t subscribe to it now, but that’s how I was able to justify it to myself at the time.
Br Dennis had no recollection of the first time he had abused, but was able to confirm that it had occurred in the classroom: If somebody was having difficulty with a particular problem, mathematics perhaps, I might bring him up and put my arm around his waist or something, and kind of draw him towards me.
Br Dennis said the urge to interfere with boys had not been present before his appointment to Artane, but had started during his teaching time there: I was convincing myself that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, that I was kind of giving encouragement or making up for some lack in their lives. I mean I was deluding myself really. But that’s the way I looked on it at the time. I was justifying it for myself in that way.
Br Dennis was never challenged or confronted about his behaviour in Artane, and he went on to abuse in the next school he was posted to. There, a boy complained to the authorities in the mid-1980s that he had touched him inappropriately. Br Dennis stated: [The boy] had a pain in his stomach on a particular day and I massaged his stomach. He claims, and he could well be right, that while I was massaging his stomach my elbow was touching his penis at the same time ... I was investigated by the Garda ... I was fairly sure at the time that I had done nothing inappropriate, but it was investigated by a Garda ... I was told that I had no case to answer ... For that reason I continued on in the school.
He continued teaching after that investigation until the early 1990s, when a former pupil of Artane made an allegation about sexual abuse. Br Dennis said that he had stopped his misbehaviour after the previous investigation and had not interfered with any boys in his latest teaching post. However, he was removed once the Artane allegation came to the attention of the authorities in the Congregation: Once our headquarters got to hear of that they said that once, it could have been all right once perhaps, the first allegation, but when a second allegation came they decided that they would have to take action. So I was taken out of teaching at that stage.
Br Dennis confirmed to the Committee that he had continued his activities, in the same pattern which did not change, from his first posting to Artane in the late 1960s until he was reported some 20 years later. Speaking about the investigation that occurred following the 1980s allegation, he said: The parents of the boy came and accused me of behaving badly with the son and that he was going to go further with it. So the next thing a Garda came up to the school and our own headquarters had been notified at that stage and I ... was summoned to headquarters anyway. I was asked various questions. At the time I denied everything to them because I had more or less convinced myself that these things hadn’t happened ... Yeah, but the fact that the Garda could find no substance either, that was the main reason why I was left[in the school] at that time.
Br Dennis continued teaching in the School for a further five years, after which he was transferred as teaching Principal to another Christian Brothers’ school in the west of Ireland. After about six months there, he received a phone call from an individual who claimed to have been abused by him and demanded money. The Brother met this individual and another man, and gave them some £800. However, the allegation was brought to the attention of the Superior by the individual or someone on his behalf: The Brother Superior at the time, he rang headquarters and I was summoned to headquarters the following day and when I went there they said that ... the fact that it was a second time they said that it called for more serious action. I was asked to take sick leave because, I mean I was very traumatised at the time anyway. So I went back and met the Board of Management, this is some time later now. I went off on sick leave for a period.
Br Dennis said that the Provincialate did not know at that stage that he had paid money, and they asked him if the allegations were true: They did and again I more or less denied them. This time they decided, the fact that it was a completely different case, that there was a danger that there was some grounds for the allegations.
Br Dennis’s ‘more or less’ denial obviously rang alarm bells: A short time after that they advised me to go for professional help, so I went to the St John of God, Granada Institute ... I was going there for a period of time and it took quite a while for me to admit, even to myself, that what I had done was wrong. As part of the therapy there I began to come to terms with it more and eventually was able to make a clean statement to them. I spent quite a long time there, in individual treatment and in group therapy ... At first I found it very difficult, but with time I began to open up more to the group because I saw that they were able to be open, and I kind of felt that I was lagging behind. So eventually, something happened anyway and there was a kind of breakthrough for me that I was able to admit it. From that period on I seemed to come to terms with the whole situation and to realise – well, I probably realised – I did realise before, the gravity of the situation I suppose, but it really only came home to me because as part of the therapy we were getting reports from people who had been sexually abused and it began to come home to me then the enormity of the thing.
Br Dennis said that, prior to his actions in Artane, he had not felt drawn to young boys. While he eventually admitted he had acted for sexual gratification, he had begun by deceiving himself that he was comforting the boy. He said that he found it very difficult to pinpoint any one thing that started it for him: Well, I suppose, I was under pressure. Under pressure, having very little free time, I suppose, in Artane ... I was young and I didn’t seem to feel that pressure, but it probably was there in spite of me, I don’t know.
Br Dennis said that he had lied, when he was first accused, out of fear: ‘I don’t know what kind of fear it was, but it was out of some kind of fear and a sense of shame; that I didn’t want to reveal that I was a failure or something like that’.
The Christian Brothers’ statement responding to the complainant who made allegations to the Investigation Committee stated that the allegations were not in keeping with the character of the Brother. The complainant’s allegations were expressly not admitted. The statement did not say that Br Dennis had been sent to the Granada Institute by the Congregational Superiors in the mid-1990s in respect of his activities in Artane.