Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 12 — Salthill

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Sexual abuse


A number of staff approached Br Burcet27 in the late 1980s, expressing concerns they had in relation to a care worker who held a temporary position with the Christian Brothers and who had himself been a resident of the home during the 1970s. They recounted an allegation, made by a boy residing in the School, that Mr Nolan had attempted a serious sexual assault on him the previous summer. The boy alleged that Mr Nolan targeted loners and used bribery as part of his modus operandi. Another staff member also recounted a recent incident when she discovered Mr Nolan and a pupil alone in a room, supposedly practising for the school concert. When she entered the room, the boy was sitting on the care worker’s knee and immediately jumped up. She also expressed concerns for another child who was close to Mr Nolan.


The Board of Management conducted an inquiry and suspended Mr Nolan, who denied the allegations. Approximately two months later, Mr Nolan was informed that the investigation was complete, that there were serious doubts regarding his professional trust, and the Board of Management felt it had no option but to terminate his employment with the School. He was given a lump sum to help him financially.


Mr Nolan brought proceedings against the School under the unfair dismissal legislation. In correspondence regarding this litigation, Br Burcet noted that ‘it is most likely that Patrick Nolan in his defence will point out that he himself was sexually abused while he was in St Joseph’s’. Br Burcet expressed concern regarding the potential damage that publicity surrounding the court case could do the School. The case settled on the day of the hearing. In the mid-1990s, Mr Nolan made a statement to the Gardaí alleging sexual abuse by three Brothers whilst he was a pupil in Salthill.


In conclusion: Although the allegations in this case were treated with more urgency than other incidents of sexual abuse cited above, the resolution of the case was motivated by a desire to avoid damaging publicity against the School. The consequences for other children who would come into contact with this man were not considered. • The treatment of Mr Nolan, a layman, can be contrasted with that of Br Dacian, which is outlined above and whose abuse also came to light at the same time. • Mr Nolan made serious allegations of sexual abuse which caused a settlement to be reached in his unfair dismissal case. There was no evidence from the Christian Brothers’ files that these allegations were investigated by the Provincialate or passed on to the Western Health Board.


Brother Julien spent seven years in Salthill during the 1930s. During service in his next posting, Artane, he was accused of misconduct. A personnel sheet in relation to Br Julien provided the information that: ‘clear evidence came to light of serious, long, continued misconduct with boys in Artane. He asked for dispensation from his vows and left the Congregation [in] 1944’. Br Julien was implicated, along with three other Brothers, according to the Visitation Report, which noted: In our Institution it should be considered a very grave offence for a Br to take a boy to his room on any pretext, or to be seen alone with a boy on any occasion. Unfortunately the Rule forbidding such was not observed in Artane. Boys were also taken out of the shops and off the parade by Brothers for various reasons. These have now been prohibited. The superior should have access to all rooms and stores in the institutions at all reasonable times and keys should be provided to enable him to have such access.


There was no documentary evidence as to any sexual activity by this Brother in Salthill but, given the recidivist nature of this crime, there must be serious concern regarding his time there.


Br Piperel taught in Salthill for two years in the mid-1940s. He had earlier worked in Letterfrack, where he had been the subject of a serious complaint that he was sexually interfering with boys. A full account of the case is contained in the chapter on Letterfrack but a brief outline of it is included here.


The Provincial received an anonymous letter of accusation from ‘a friend of the school’ in relation to concerns about Br Piperel’s behaviour in Letterfrack. The letter-writer asked the Provincial to change Br Piperel for the morals of the boys.


The Provincial did not conceal his disquiet. Having set out a transcription of the anonymous letter, he wrote to Br Piperel: These recurring warnings are causing me grave anxiety. Taken in connection with what did happen between you and boys on a previous occasion there is quite justifiable cause for all my anxiety. Has anything wrong, such as is described in the above letter, taken place between you and a boy, or boys? The matter is so grave, and is fraught with such serious consequences to you, to the Institution and to the Congregation, that I require you to be very open and candid with me. Please let me have a letter from you by return.


Br Piperel wrote a three-page letter defending his behaviour and alleging that another member of staff had made malicious allegations against him.


At the time of the complaint, Br Piperel had been in Letterfrack for some eight years and he continued his career there for another four years. Thereafter, he served in Salthill, Tralee and Glin for almost 10 years, including two years in Salthill. The records contained complaints about the Brother’s work and attitude in these institutions, but did not record incidents of sexual impropriety.


His last posting was to a school in Cork in the 1950s, where his career as a teacher came to a dramatic end as a result of a complaint by a local doctor about his inappropriate behaviour with a young girl.


In their Opening Statement for Letterfrack, the Christian Brothers recorded the facts about this Brother in summary form, noting that he ‘was given the opportunity to explain himself and give his interpretation of what happened’. They commented: It is not clear why Br X was moved around from institution to institution despite being a danger to the boys. There is no detailed account to indicate what discussion took place about the matter, nor any indication as to why such a decision was taken.


This Brother was transferred to Salthill, notwithstanding the history of concern about his conduct with boys. Again, there was no evidence that he interfered with boys there, and it must also be borne in mind that no case was proved against him in Letterfrack. However, the documents indicated that the Brother Provincial had a serious concern about his propensities, and that alone should have ensured that he was not appointed to another residential school.

Conclusions on sexual abuse in Salthill


1.The appointment to Salthill of a Brother with a known propensity for abuse of boys showed a reckless disregard for the safety of children in care. 2.Concerns were raised about three Brothers whilst they were in Salthill. In none of these cases was the abuse addressed, other than as a practical problem for the Congregation. One Brother continued in his post and the two others were transferred to other schools. In the case of one of them, there is documentary evidence of serious abuse of young boys continuing for over 20 years after his transfer from Salthill. 3.The Congregation protected its own reputation instead of protecting children.

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  30. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period. See the Department of Education chapter for a discussion of her role and performance.
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