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Chapter 14 — John Brander

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Mr Rothe pursued the matter in a further letter: Dear [Bishop] In reply to your question on other cases I have been informed that during the seven months of the last Coalition Government two persons had the right to teach removed from them by the Minister Mr. Boland. You did not in your letter give any answer on the question of an investigation or compensation for me personally. I do not agree with your reasoning on the Tullamore case but do realise that it was the result of an oversight. If my attempts to achieve an improvement through the proper channels fail I will use any other means available. What happens in our schools is everybody’s concern. The first time parents hear of the problem is after it has happened when it is too late. It is no consolation to know how many cases there have been. How many are necessary before action is taken.


Mr Rothe wrote a further letter, but there is no evidence that the bishop replied to either.


Mr Rothe also contacted Fr Derek, former curate in the Walsh Island parish, whose parish priest had been Fr Colm. Mr Rothe had approached Fr Derek, as he felt that his meeting with the Bishop had been unsatisfactory. He gave evidence of a meeting he had with Fr Derek, with whom he had a good relationship. Fr Derek advised him that, when Mr Brander was sacked, a Department of Education Inspector and an Irish National Teachers’ Organisation official were involved. He did not learn their names.


Fr Derek advised him of the circumstances surrounding Mr Brander’s removal: He did tell me the sequence of how Fr [Colm] heard about it on Sunday and he went to the Bishop on the Monday and consulted with the Bishop and then he came back the next day and ... confronted Mr [Brander] about it and how quickly it was done.


Fr Derek said that, if Mr Brander was still teaching, it was the Department’s fault.


There is a Garda memorandum of an interview with Fr Derek in the mid-1990s. Fr Derek said that, following Mr Rothe’s visit in the early 1980s, he consulted with the Bishop and visited the school curate of Tullamore to warn him about Mr Brander who was then teaching in the School.


Mr Rothe wrote to Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh. He discussed the problem of child abuse in general terms and said that he had been abused in a small rural primary school. He mentioned that had contacted the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin and John Boland TD. The Diocesan secretary replied as follows: ‘In the absence of [the] Cardinal I wish to acknowledge your letter ... As you have already consulted your own bishop concerning the matter you can be assured that [the] Bishop will bring it to the attention of the bishops if he deems it right that the bishops should be informed’.


The discovery from the diocese contained a further letter from Mr Rothe, which commenced: I have again asked [the Bishop] what action is to be taken to establish an investigation into cases of sexual abuse in schools whether or not I am to be compensated for medical expenses etc. and what the position is regarding the employment of Mr. [Brander] in Sacred Heart Secondary School, Tullamore, Co Offaly.


In this letter, he continued to express his frustration at the lack of will to tackle the problem of the sexual abuse of children in public schools.


He received no reply to this letter.


Mr Rothe said that he spoke to the curate in the parish of Tullamore. He felt he was more likely to listen to him than the parish priest: I made an appointment to see him, I went to see him and told him the whole story, he suggested that he would check out the story and that I would phone him a week later, which I did. He was very abrupt and very emphatic that he would do nothing, that he would not be a part of a witch hunt and that you could not drag a man’s past after him like an albatross around his neck.

Department of Education


In light of Fr Derek’s information about a Department of Education inspector being involved, Mr Rothe decided to approach a national school inspector with whom he was professionally acquainted.


Mr Rothe spoke about Mr Brander’s sexual abuse of his male pupils and physical abuse of both male and female students. Mr Rothe also spoke of the sexual abuse he had himself suffered while a pupil at Walsh Island NS. Mr Rothe testified to the Committee that he had expected his acquaintance to pursue his complaint officially with the Department, even though he was not in a position of authority over Mr Brander. However, the national school inspector gave evidence that he believed that the meeting was private and that it was not intended that he should follow up with action on his part.


While there is disagreement between the two men in relation to the number of meetings, what was said and what each understood to be the purpose of the meeting, the essential fact that Mr Rothe gave information regarding serious sexual and physical abuse by Mr Brander, a serving teacher, is not in dispute. The national school inspector did not follow up this complaint by passing on the information to the Department.


Mr Rothe gave evidence that his efforts thus far were an attempt to avoid having to write a formal letter of complaint to the Department of Education. He had no idea how to go about this task, and felt that there were implications for him professionally in so doing. Despite this fact, he wrote: Dear Sir, I wish to make the following points concerning Mr. [Brander] who is presently teaching in Sacred Heart School, Tullamore. Mr. [Brander] taught in Walsh Island NS, Geashill, Co Offaly from 1965 to 70. He was then sacked because it was found that he was sexually abusing boys in his classes. He was the principal teacher in Walsh Island. The manager of the school, Fr. [Colm] reported the matter to [the Bishop]... Mr. [Brander] was then barred from teaching in primary schools. He then taught in Presentation Convent, Castlecomer before taking up his present post in Tullamore. I have been in touch with the authorities in Sacred Heart, Tullamore and they informed me that they were not informed of Mr. [Brander’s] behaviour in Walsh Island either by the Department or [the Bishop]. Many parents in Tullamore are unhappy with Mr. [Brander’s] teaching and methods of maintaining discipline etc... I am sure that [the Bishop] will verify anything I have said here regarding Mr. [Brander’s] conduct in Walsh Island I am myself a teacher and fully realise the seriousness of the charges I make against another teacher, I would not make any charge that I could not prove. I will expect the matter to be fully investigated and appropriate action taken. Yours sincerely

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  4. He was again transferred to another primary school St Michael’s CBS Inchicore. He remained here for one month and then moved to CBS James’ St.
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  11. Irish National Teachers’ Organisation.
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  22. Irish for ‘This is a very good teacher: he has qualifications in Irish’.