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Chapter 12 — Salthill

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Physical abuse


Br Marque was transferred to Salthill in the early 1970s, where he remained for 15 years. One Visitor was very critical of Br Marque who held a senior position in the Community at that time. He noted: Unfortunately he has a problem with drink and when under its influence he can deal harshly with erring boys. The boys are aware of this weakness and the irrational motivation behind these punishments. This does not increase their respect for their staff nor their confidence in it.


The following year, the Visitor noted that Br Marque ‘still has a drink problem but the Superior’s good sense and vigilance have helped to lessen the gravity of the situation’.


The situation remained unresolved into the mid-1970s. The Visitor remarked that Br Marque gave the impression that he was not too happy in Galway and repeated, verbatim, the comment of the previous year: ‘He still has a drink problem but the Superior’s good sense and vigilance have helped to lessen the gravity of the situation’.


The real problem was not just that this Brother drank but that, under the influence of drink, he administered harsh and irrational punishments to the boys. While ‘the gravity of the situation’ had been lessened by the Superior’s monitoring, the question of whether children should have been under the care of such a man was not addressed. He should have been seen as an unacceptable risk to the children in the School and removed once this problem was identified.


An incident was recorded in the Manager’s diary during the mid-1970s, concerning the behaviour of Br Remi. He spent most of his teaching career working in residential schools.


The diary entry from the mid-1970s stated ‘Br Remi struck [Michael].11 deformed his teeth’. The entry the following day noted that the boy attended the dentist.


He was mentioned by the Visitor as having difficulty in adapting to the new regime that was being introduced to Salthill at that time. He wrote: despite his overt yearning for the good old days when boys were made toe the line in quasi-military fashion one senses that deep down he is slowly and reluctantly coming to appreciate that the new approach has something to recommend it.


While the Visitor recorded his approval of the new, less rigid approach to controlling children as having something to recommend it, he was not nearly critical enough about Br Remi’s yearning for the ‘good old days’ of a harsher regime. Br Remi should have been left in no doubt that violence was completely unacceptable, and incidents such as that recorded in the diary should have been avoided. By the mid-1970s, there should have been a more formal procedure for recording and responding to physical abuse of children. There was no record that this incident was ever investigated, or that any disciplinary action was taken against Br Remi. Such an event, which was tantamount to criminal assault, was not considered to be sufficiently grave to warrant disciplinary action. It suggested that, notwithstanding the changes that had been effected in the regime, the underlying philosophy had not altered.


A diary entry in 1981 read: [John]12 Back. 6.30 . Had a chat with him and gave him a few clatters.


A casual approach to physical punishment was revealed in this entry. It suggested that giving a boy ‘a few clatters’ was acceptable when it should have had no place in childcare practices in the 1980s.

Sexual abuse


The documents revealed cases of actual and suspected sexual abuse in Salthill. They implicated five Brothers, one care worker who was a former resident, and another ex-resident who came back years after he had been discharged and got into the building on a number of occasions.


The documents covered the period from the 1930s to the 1980s. Three of the Brothers came under suspicion when they were in the Institution, while the other two came to notice in industrial schools other than Salthill. One Brother explicitly admitted that he had been guilty of immorality with boys for years, but he later withdrew the confession, and his subsequent dismissal was for unconnected reasons. In another case, the Brother tried to put an innocent interpretation on his conduct but the Provincial was clear that it was a ‘lapse’. This Brother went on to abuse for over 20 years after leaving Salthill. The last Salthill case involving a Christian Brother was more equivocal, and concerned inappropriate behaviour for which he gave a somewhat odd explanation.


Br Emile was working in Salthill in the early 1950s, when he wrote directly to the Sacred Congregation of Religious in Rome requesting a dispensation. He said that he never had a vocation and only took his final vows to avoid disappointing his mother. He confessed: Since 1945 with the exception of two years back at College I have been interfering immorally and unchastely with boys under my care. I tried to give it up but failed. I realised that I was doing great harm to the boys, to the Congregation and damning my own soul.


He said that he had consulted two Jesuit priests on the matter and they strongly advised him to leave the Congregation.


The Monsignor dealing with the case sent a copy of the letter to Br Clancy, the Superior General, commenting, ‘I think it is a clear case of letting him go’. The Brother then withdrew his application, asserting that he was depressed at the time he made the application and that what he had stated with regard to abusing boys was false. The General Council accepted Br Emile’s retraction and his explanation for it, but felt it necessary to issue him with a maneat in February 1953.

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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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