The third apology was issued when another childcare worker from St Joseph’s, Kilkenny was convicted. It read, inter alia: We are appalled that a care worker employed at St. Joseph’s for 9 months from ’76 to ’77 abused children in his care and we are offering counselling services etc. He came to St. Joseph’s as a qualified care worker, had excellent references from his former employees in the UK, and was interviewed by representatives from St. Joseph’s and from the Department of Education ... Peter Tade’s2 abuse of the children at St. Joseph’s has caused untold misery for the men involved. Nothing can make up for what happened to them and we deeply regret their suffering.
Peter Tade was indicted on 10 counts and he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in June 1998.
Peter Tade was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison at Kilkenny Circuit Criminal Court on 9th June 1998. He died in prison in 1999 before the hearings into St Joseph’s took place.
Sr Astrid said: When Thomas Pleece was gone I immediately rang the Department. I told Mr. Granville that I had dismissed Thomas Pleece and would he kindly come down to help me to put an ad in the paper and have the right salary. He came down, we wrote the ad, I posted it to the paper. Then when the people applied, came in, I told him that we had so many, but there was only one qualified person. I said "would you come down to interview if he [is] a state qualified person?" And he did. He came down to the parlour and the two of us interviewed Peter Tade.
According to Sr Astrid, Peter Tade was an elderly man and had great references. He was a very religious and serious man. Both she and Mr Granville agreed that he should be offered the job.
After some months, around August 1976, Peter Tade arrived and was appointed as a House Parent, and Mr Kavanagh became his assistant. Five months later, Donal Kavanagh resigned and wrote a letter of resignation which stated: Dear Rev Mother, Please accept this as my letter of resignation. I leave for the following reasons: Having two house fathers in Summerhill might work under different circumstances; but in the case of Mr Tade and I it is not working. I feel and fear that at the present time Mr Tade is neither mentally nor emotionally stable enough to give the boys the security and example they need. Furthermore I feel the situation in Summerhill at the moment is highly undesirable and unsafe. This is not a hasty or reckless judgment, but an opinion formed after working in close proximity with Mr Tade for four months, and it is not without great thought and extreme reluctance that I now bring these matters to your attention; but as my first responsibility is to the boys in all conscience I must. Having been assured that there is no chance of transferring to another group, I must therefore with even greater reluctance submit this, my resignation. Yours sincerely,
In the course of her evidence, Sr Astrid was shown a copy of Donal Kavanagh’s letter of resignation, which was written in January 1977. She was asked what her understanding of that letter had been. She told the Committee that she was glad when she got Mr Kavanagh’s letter that he was leaving and she explained to the Committee that she had not really read his letter properly at the time – she believed he had not written it himself: I admit I didn’t read the letter properly. I had never got a complaint from anybody. None of the boys said anything about Peter Tade to me.
She said that she did not trust Donal Kavanagh, although she did not explain why. She agreed that it was almost impossible to get care workers at that time, either qualified or unqualified, but she still did not want to retain Mr Kavanagh, who had asked for a move away from Peter Tade. Mr Kavanagh surmised that her antipathy stemmed from his desire to unionise the workforce in St Joseph’s.
She said that she did not know what Peter Tade did after leaving St Joseph’s. She believed that, because he was quite an old man, he would not have worked in childcare again. She confirmed that she had never been approached for a reference for him.
Sr Astrid was asked whether she would have sacked Peter Tade if she knew he had been shouting at boys and beating boys. Her reply was, ‘Well, I would have spoken to him about it ... No I wouldn’t have sacked him, no’.
At the time of Donal Kavanagh’s resignation, Sr Astrid said that she had received no complaints about Peter Tade but, six months later, a complaint of sexual abuse was made to her. She told a Garda about the allegation, and asked him to accompany her to Dublin to confront Peter Tade about it.
Sr Astrid appeared to take a back seat in the questioning of Peter Tade. She said that the words ‘sex abuse’ were not used, but that Tade admitted to improper behaviour: When [the Garda] was questioning him. Whatever he was saying to – I took it that there was something improper going on. He didn’t use the word sex abuse ...
She was asked why, if the incident did not seem serious, she had travelled to Dublin and asked the Garda to accompany her in order to confront Peter Tade. She gave no clear answer to that, although she did say that, once Peter Tade had made his admission, she had told him not to return to St Joseph’s. Nevertheless, she was clearly concerned enough at the initial complaint to move fairly quickly to talk to Peter Tade.
The Garda gave evidence to the Committee. He had no involvement with Thomas Pleece but he did recall Peter Tade as a care worker in St Joseph’s. He remembered that a complaint was made by Gerry,28 who was the son of a family who befriended children in St Joseph’s.
Peter Tade used to take Richard,29 who was a boy in care in St Joseph’s, and Gerry on fishing trips and for spins in his car. Peter Tade took photographs of them. The Garda described what happened: the circumstances were that Peter Tade had taken photographs of Richard and Gerry. He used to take them fishing and took them for spins in his car. But Gerry’s mother discovered that Peter Tade’s face, he was in one of the photographs, had been scratched and pins driven through it and she suspected something was wrong. She spoke to him and he told her that Peter Tade did something to him. As far as I recall it was a bank holiday weekend and Peter Tade was off, he was on leave and he was in Dublin, Sr Astrid said she had to get rid of him or ask him to leave. I came to Dublin with her – or I came to Dublin and I met her in Dublin.