In his statement to the Investigation Committee Mr Stegar stated that Mr Brander ‘believed in the power of the fist for boys and girls’. In evidence he further described how, if a girl misbehaved in the classroom, Mr Brander would make her kneel outside the classroom for the duration of the class. When Mr Stegar raised the inappropriateness of this punishment with him, he was told to mind his own business.
Mr Stegar described one of these assaults which occurred at the sports day and involved a tug of war. One of the boys challenged Mr Brander about favouring the other side. In response, Mr Brander punched him to the ground. This occurred in front of other teachers and pupils, including some primary school classes. The religious and lay teachers present ushered their pupils out of the field following the assault. Two days later, Mr Brander gave the boy concerned a medal for bravery as his parents had not complained. Mr Gadd also recalled the event and said that he was particularly incensed by it.
Mr Stegar described another occasion when Mr Brander struck a referee during a match. On yet another occasion, Mr Stegar said that he had to stand between Mr Brander and a boy to prevent Mr Brander striking him.
In a statement to the Commission, Mr Stegar said that parents would come to the School to complain about the assaults. However, Sr Giuliana, in a Garda statement made in the mid-1990s, said that while she was principal of the School, ‘no allegations of any nature were made against Mr. Brander’.
A complaint by a father, that his son was being sexually molested by Mr Brander gave rise to an investigation by Mr Stegar and Mr Gadd, which resulted in his departure to take up a teaching position in another school. There was divergence between the evidence of the teachers and Sr Giuliana, the former Principal of the School as to the latter’s knowledge of the allegations against Mr Brander but the basic facts were not in dispute.
Mr Stegar said that the boy’s father called to his house one night and advised him that two days previously his son had been molested by Mr Brander. The child had returned from school in an extremely distressed condition, and had given his father the names of three other boys who had similarly been abused. The father made it clear that he wanted Mr Brander removed from the School and from the town. He wanted Mr Stegar to deal with the matter and did not want to make a complaint to the Gardaí.
That evening, Mr Stegar and Mr Gadd devised a series of questions to put to the three boys concerned: (a)did they understand the meaning of the word ‘molested’? (b)were they ever molested? (c)was it a member of staff? (d)would they name the person? (e)did they know of any other boys in the school who had been molested?
Mr Stegar and Mr Gadd spoke to a number of students in an upstairs classroom. The general response of the students was that it was very much common knowledge that Mr Brander had been really out of control in this area for quite some time and that nearly every pupil in the school knew that. Mr Gadd stated: we certainly were left with the impression that he certainly had been abusing students, that the allegation which this student’s parent was making certainly was probably true. Five boys named Mr Brander as having molested them. Mr Gadd then suggested that they contact a local barrister.
The barrister was extremely disturbed by what he heard and drafted a letter to be given to Mr Brander but the two teachers decided to adopt a more gentle approach. The barrister advised the two men to go straight to Sr Giuliana, which Mr Stegar said they did the following day. He said they advised her of the questions they had asked the boys and their findings. They gave her the names of the five boys concerned. Mr Stegar said there was no misunderstanding as to the nature of the allegations being made.
Sr Giuliana said that she did not know what to do and the matter rested there for some time. Mr Stegar and Mr Gadd were conscious of the fact that Mr Brander was a very strong and influential member of staff. During the next four to five weeks, word of the complaint and Mr Stegar’s actions slipped out.
Some time later, the boy’s father contacted him again. He said that if nothing was done about Mr Brander he would contact the Gardaí. The following day, Mr Stegar went to Sr Giuliana. She told him that she found it difficult to even discuss the matter with the manager, Sr Donata, who was 20 years her senior. She advised him that she had got a book on understanding homosexuality. Sr Giuliana, denied this in evidence and said ‘I had never heard of homosexuality at the time’. Some time after this, she asked if he and Mr Gadd would speak to Mr Brander about the allegations.
Sr Giuliana arranged that they would meet Mr Brander after school. The meeting took place on the Monday or Tuesday of Holy Week. At the meeting, Mr Stegar advised Mr Brander that there were widespread allegations that he was sexually interfering with boys in the School, and that the allegations were also out in the wider community. His immediate reaction was to deny the allegations, saying that he might have given them a few clatters. They advised him that Sr Giuliana knew of the allegations. Mr Brander said that, once allegations of this nature were made about you, there was no future in the community. Mr Stegar had the impression at the end of the meeting that Mr Brander would leave the school.
On the Wednesday, when the school was to close for Easter holidays, Mr Stegar told Sr Giuliana how the meeting had gone. After the Easter break, Sr Giuliana came to the staff room and advised them that Mr Brander would be leaving at the end of the term.
Mr Stegar and Mr Gadd were two young teachers in their twenties confronting the vice-principal who was in his fifties and who had been there for a number of years. Mr Gadd said that this was why the events stayed in his mind while most other events from the time were a blur. He recalled Mr Brander being pained by what he heard and not making much comment. Mr Gadd said to him that ‘given the seriousness of the allegations ... it was in his own interest that he should come out and that he should deny them forthrightly, in public’. He put this suggestion to Mr Brander because, having spoken to the pupils concerned, he knew that Mr Brander would do no such thing.
When asked what he did next, Mr Gadd said that he had no clear recollection but he presumed or thought ‘we must have passed on, if we had met him in the parlour and we met him, I think, at the behest of Sr Giuliana, I think we must have reported to her. But I have no picture in my mind of that meeting’. In a previous Garda statement, he had been more specific: We reported our findings to Sister [Giuliana]. It was decided that Mr [Stegar] and I would discuss the matter with Mr [Brander]. He confirmed that this statement was correct.