Another witness, in Ferryhouse in the late 1960s, also stressed the frightening impact of so many boys together at one time. On recalling his first day: We were escorted up to a laundry house and, if I am not mistaken, the laundry house would have been underneath the main stairs or somewhere in that area of the main building of Ferryhouse before you go out to the yard from the Rector’s office. There was a little laundry room there which Br Leone1 was running and there he handed you out whatever clothing or blankets, I can’t remember what it was. I remember the smell of the laundry room. That is all I remember of it. When I walked out the door that day and seen so many boys running around, I think it was the first and last time I actually had a good cry because I knew where I was. I didn’t know there was no come back, but I knew that was the first time I actually said to myself I really missed my mother. I realised I was after being taken away.
Mr Garnier lived and worked in Clonmel and was a voluntary worker in the School for many years. He had free access everywhere in the Institution, even in the dormitories when the boys were going to bed and afterwards. He had particular contact with ‘C’ Group, which was managed by Br Leone, who was a friend of his. Another man from Clonmel, named Mr Tablis,24 had similar access on the basis of his friendship with Fr Lucio, the Resident Manager.
There is an enormous difference between involvement by the community in the running of the Institution, and allowing outsiders to enter the boys’ dormitories and to spend time there on a frequent basis. Clearly, the Brother in charge of the dormitory, Br Leone, should not have permitted the access, but he happened to be the contact in the School on whom Mr Garnier relied, and who introduced him to the School in the first place.
Mr Garnier told the Gardaí how his contact with Ferryhouse began: I know Br Leone for years. A lot of the boys went to the technical school. That is boys from Ferryhouse School. I saw Br Leone bringing them to school and I got chatting to them. That’s how it started roughly 28 years ago.
Fr Ricardo25 was present in the School for two periods during the 1970s and 1980s. He gave evidence to the Committee, and he also did not see anything inappropriate about Mr Garnier’s access. He said: He used to play a lot of cards, particularly Friday evening and he would help Br Leone in playing cards, that basically was his job. Sometimes he would lock up the unit or come up with Br Leone and he might come up to the dormitory but generally he would go off then before Br Leone would turn the lights out. And I think Br Leone would have seen Mr Garnier, or [Christian name], as I would have known him, as some kind of a help, to help him to get the boys to bed.
He mostly remembered the boys in the older group in Br Leone’s care who were about 14 or 16 years old. He was with the seniors more than the juniors but he had contact with all the groups. He bought sweets and gifts for the boys. Mr Garnier denied allegations made by boys that he had fondled and masturbated them, but he did admit having had sexual contact with two boys in Ferryhouse. The first one happened at a time when Br Leone was in charge of the group, and Fr Lucio was the Resident Manager. The incident happened in the ‘C’ Group dormitory. He described how he had kissed the boy and sexually abused him.
The abuse with the other boy followed the same format. He was in ‘C’ Group, which was under the stewardship of Br Leone.
A witness resident in Ferryhouse in 1970s alleged in his evidence to the Committee that Mr Garnier sexually abused him. Mr Garnier was not represented at the hearing. The witness said that Mr Garnier was a friend of Br Leone and that he would visit the School regularly. He spent a lot of time in the junior dormitory and only left when the lights were turned off: He used to come into the school and he would be up in the juniors, upstairs with the juniors. He would be buying sweets, he would buy torches and he would buy different things for you.
Fr Valerio’s first involvement with Ferryhouse was in the mid-1950s when, at age nine, he was committed to the Institution by the courts. He remained there until the eve of his 16th birthday. He alleged in his Garda interview that he was sexually abused during his time there. After leaving, he joined the Order in the mid-1960s. He was posted to Ferryhouse as Assistant Prefect in the late 1960s. He took over charge of ‘B’ Group, which was composed of boys aged between 14 and 15 years, from Fr Antonio. At the time, Br Andino28 was in charge of ‘A’ Group, and Br Leone was in charge of ‘C’ Group. As Prefect, he slept in a room just off the dormitory where the boys slept. He remained in this position until he left the School, four years later, to begin his studies for the priesthood. Other members of staff present during this period described him as a hardworking albeit strict Brother ‘who seemed to me to have a great rapport with the lads in general’. He was ordained in the late 1970s, and spent the next 10 years as a religious teacher. In the early 1990s, he was engaged in parochial work in Dublin and Wales.
A witness who was present in Ferryhouse from the late 1960s alleged that he was sexually abused by Brs Leone and Valerio. The abuse took place in Br Leone’s bedroom, when they would return to the School late after sporting tournaments. It continued for about two and a half years.