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.
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 Gadd was careful to qualify the extent to which Sr Giuliana could have known of the abuse. He said that their understanding of what had happened was different back then: if people like Sr Giuliana and so on had been told about this, I just think their understanding of what was going on at the time would have been very, very narrow indeed ... it was a very different moral world ... People’s knowledge of these matters would have been extremely minimal, that they mightn’t even know about them at all ... one has to put these things into context and one has to understand that the people who were being asked to deal with them would have been very ill prepared to deal with them I think. It was only much, much later on that we understood the enormity of what he had been at ... much later on that we understood that on days perhaps the School would have had a function in the local church, in the local Roman Catholic church, that Mr Brander might have lurked behind and might have accosted the boys in the School, who belonged to [other religious communities] ...
When asked specifically what he thought Sr Giuliana knew, his response was vague. Later, he said that nobody wanted to know about the matter. However, he also said that he remembered Sr Giuliana at some later point making the comment that Mr Brander was the last person she would doubt.
As to whether they reported the result of their questioning of the boys to Sr Giuliana he said, ‘We probably did, but I can’t be anymore definite on that’. When asked specifically whether he and Mr Stegar had reported the outcome of their interview with Mr Brander to Sr Giuliana, he replied, ‘I would think that in all likelihood [we] did yes’.
Sr Giuliana gave evidence that one morning she was in the cloakroom as the children were arriving to school. The boy’s mother had arrived and asked for Mr Stegar. Sr Giuliana sent a child to fetch him. She later enquired of Mr Stegar as to how the meeting went, and he advised her that the mother had complained about Mr Brander and that he and Mr Gadd had dealt with the matter. That was the end of the matter as far as she was concerned.
Whether or not Sr Giuliana knew the full details and implications of the sexual abuse, she knew he was leaving under a cloud, yet she gave him a good reference as she considered that he was a good teacher. Further incidents of sexual abuse at Presentation Convent, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny
Firstly, Mr Brander was convicted of the sexual abuse of Niko.16 The Garda discovery contained a statement from Niko, in which he stated that he had complained to Sr Giuliana at the time about the sexual abuse by Mr Brander, but that she did not believe him. In evidence and in a Garda statement, Sr Giuliana denied that he had made such a complaint to her. The Garda who conducted the investigation into the allegations made by Niko spoke to Sr Giuliana who said that she did not recall any complaint.
Mr Stegar in a statement to the Commission supported his allegations. Marco had contacted him in the mid-1990s and advised him that he was going to the Gardaí to complain about Mr Brander. Mr Stegar recalled visiting Marco when he was a schoolboy and was ill in hospital with suspected meningitis. He discovered at the time that the boy was hospitalised following a beating around the head from Mr Brander. He advised the boy to complain to Sr Giuliana. Mr Stegar acknowledged in evidence that he should have brought it to her attention himself. At the meeting, Marco said that he had tried to tell him about being sexually abused by Mr Brander. Mr Stegar recalled another occasion when Marco and another boy told him that Mr Brander was a homosexual, but that he did not pursue the matter.