The Christian Brothers have acknowledged that one Brother, Br Garon, ‘behaved in an inappropriate manner in the boys’ showers’.
Br Garon was almost 60 years old when he arrived in Tralee, where he worked for almost 20 years from the early 1950s.
Three witnesses recalled inappropriate behaviour on the part of Br Garon.
The first of these witnesses was in Tralee in the mid-1950s. He said that Br Garon regularly took a shower with the boys. He would wash them and get them to wash him including his private parts.
The third witness recalled washing Br Garon, who used to get into the showers with the small boys. The boys used to wash each other’s backs and Br Garon used to do the same. This went on for ‘a while’. He said that they thought it was ‘the norm’.
In a Garda statement responding to allegations made against him, Br Marceau acknowledged that Br Garon used to be in the showers with the boys. He said: On one occasion I had reason to look for Br Garon who was in the showers with the boys and he and the boys were naked. I was shocked and never approved of that.
A second Brother, Br Lisle,22 made a supplemental statement in January 2006 in relation to alleged sexual abuse by Br Garon. In it, he recalled that boys had made complaints to him about this Brother. The solicitors for the Christian Brothers informed the Committee in a letter dated 27th January 2006 of the information given to them by Br Lisle. The letter explained that, during the course of a meeting between Br Lisle and the Deputy Provincial of St Helen’s Province on 16th January 2006, Br Lisle disclosed that, when he was in Tralee, a number of boys had made ‘allegations of sexual impropriety’ against Br Garon, and that he had told the Resident Managers of these allegations at the time. The Committee was also advised that, insofar as the Deputy Provincial knew, this was the first time that the Brother had made these allegations.
In the statement made four days later, on 31st January, Br Lisle explained that about four or five boys between the ages of nine and 16 complained to him that they were reluctant to go for showers because Br Garon would ‘interfere with them while in the showers’. They said that Br Garon would shower them and request that they wash him also. Br Garon would be naked with them in the showers. The boys also told him that Br Garon would take a boy from the yard for an ‘individual shower’ every day.
When giving evidence to the Committee, Br Lisle said that the allegations against Br Garon had not come as a great shock to him, as Br Garon himself used to take boys off the yard, telling him that he had to ‘bring this boy for a shower’.
When this happened, he reported it to Br Sinclair,24 the first of the three Resident Managers. His complaint was dismissed and he was told, ‘Oh don’t mind that man, sure, he was in China for years’. He could not remember the word used by the first boy when complaining to him, but he believed it was something like ‘fiddling’. He did not recall if he went to Br Sinclair with complaints more than once, but it is possible that he did, since several boys would be talking about it. His view at the time was that he had done enough by telling Br Sinclair because he would ‘let him look after it’. He did not go back to the boy to follow up on it. Br Garon, however, kept giving showers.
When that Resident Manager was replaced, Br Lisle reported the matter to his successor, Br Millard, who was only Resident Manager for a matter of weeks. He cannot remember what that Resident Manager said to him, but he accepted that he must not have been happy with his predecessor’s response. Br Lisle also told the Committee that he was with Br Millard on one occasion when a boy came up and said that Br Garon wanted him for a shower. He turned to Br Millard and told him that he thought there was more than just showering going on. It was crystal clear what was being alleged, but, according to Br Lisle, the boy probably still went for the shower. He said that his understanding was that the boys did not ‘like it and that they were trying to have it stopped, they didn’t want to be interfered with, as they said’. He thought Br Garon took these showers with the boys when they were taken from the yard, as opposed to during the normal Saturday night showers.
When the third Resident Manager, Br Roy, took over, Br Lisle again reported the boys’ complaints about Br Garon’s activity in the showers. He did not know if Br Roy did anything, but he now knows that the information did not go to ‘headquarters’.
Br Lisle said that it never occurred to him to tell the Brothers who were carrying out the Visitations, as he thought other Brothers would have reported it. He thought all the others knew about it. He was just the ‘junior member of staff’ and he did not think it was his place to confront Br Garon. He said that there were ‘more senior men there than me to confront him’.
He had told the Deputy Provincial in January 2006 that Br Garon was abusing the boys ‘most of the time’. He had not talked about it to anyone between 1970 and 2006. His understanding had been that ‘headquarters’ knew all about Br Garon, because he had told every Resident Manager.
None of the Visitation Reports over the 20-year period that Br Garon spent in Tralee refers to any complaints of this nature being made against him, so there is very little in the documentation to assist the Committee in the consideration of this case.