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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Sexual abuse


Fr Luca referred to this incident in his Statement to the Committee although, again, he did not identify Br Abran as the Brother in question: It was a different Brother to the accusation about the 14 year old. There had never been any accusations against the second Brother [Ramon] before that, at least I had never heard anything against him.


As the Oblates pointed out in their Submission, ‘The incidents ... require a careful investigation, the materials for which are not available in the records held by the Oblates’. This particular case illustrates one of the reasons why the records on allegations of sexual abuse do not exist: the system inhibited disclosure and the type of thorough investigation that would lead to meaningful and useful records. Fr Luca’s procedure would have tended to suppress rather than encourage allegations of sexual abuse in Daingean. He appeared unable to appreciate the difficulty his procedure would have caused the boys in Daingean, even during the evidence to the Committee.


Most of the staff members accused of sexual abuse were not available to give evidence, and the Committee was presented with allegations of sexual abuse made by credible witnesses, but without the possibility of hearing the contrary side and generally in the absence of documentary evidence and independent corroboration.


One witness described his seduction by a lay teacher: He would take me out fishing. The outer walls of Daingean ran alongside the grand canal ... Things happened there ... he used to use a newspaper and he would start off by reading the newspaper and I would have the fishing rod and then he would put the newspaper down on his lap, it was a slow process that went on for 10 or 15 minutes, then it would be spread out on his lap and then half of it would go on to my lap. He would say to me, “Oh, look at this.” He would point to something in the newspaper. Then he would point at something which was just directly above my crotch ... Then he would put his hand under the newspaper and attempt to masturbate me ... I remember on a few occasions he tried to suck my penis. On another occasion he tried to – we were in some grass and I can remember that he had a handkerchief in his hand and he got on top of me from behind – I was laying flat, he got on top of me from behind and he tried to bugger me ... I just clenched and kept my legs closed. He ejaculated sort of somewhere in that region and I remember him using a handkerchief to wipe up ... I can only remember one occasion that happened but several instances of him trying to suck my penis.


He said this teacher ‘... wasn’t an aggressive person at all. He was a very effeminate type of person. He was a really nice man’. He explained that, despite disliking the sexual activity, he continued to go out with the teacher because he was given treats such as sweets.


Another witness described being sexually assaulted on two occasions by a member of staff while he was in Daingean. He alleged that he complained to a Brother and the matron about the abuse, and they just fobbed him off. He also alleged that he was physically abused by the Brother to whom he reported the assault. He stated that his mother became aware of this physical abuse, and she complained to the school authorities. The correspondence between his mother and the school authorities was available to the Committee, and it supported the witness’s contention that his mother did in fact complain that she had been told by a couple of boys who had recently absconded from Daingean that her son had received 16 lashes. This complaint was dealt with by Fr Luca personally, who assured her that her son was in perfect health.


His letter concentrated on calming the parent rather than investigating the allegations: As regards the other matters you mention; namely that [your son] has been ill treated here. That is not true and I know before Easter [he] had asked a member of the staff to call and see you about this and to assure you that what you had been told was not true. Naturally you could expect an exaggerated story from your source of information. In fact, such a boy would not ask better than to upset you and cause as much trouble as possible. If you come down next visiting Sunday you may talk it over with Br. [Mateo]30 and I hope the matron will also be available that day too. In fact it was the matron whom [your son] asked to contact you.


Another witness alleged that he was forced to perform oral sex with one of the Brothers on a number of occasions: About three different times ... You just accepted it. There was no one you could report it to. There was no one whatsoever. There was no telephones. I think it was every fortnight you were allowed to write to your mother. There was no one. You don’t see anyone from outside. I never seen anyone from outside for two years.


One complainant described being beaten by two Brothers on the bare backside, which led to a sexual assault: I remember Br. [Mateo] came in, before I knew it he had my hands pins behind my back, he had me over a school desk the trousers were practically ripped off me and I got probably half a dozen smacks. One of them, I think the two of them were feeling my private parts, my arse and penis. This went on for probably eight or ten minutes.


The boy went back to his friends, but was too ashamed to tell them about the sexual abuse: I didn’t tell them actually what happened but I said I got a smack on the arse. I didn’t tell them that I was after being felt up. I was ashamed actually. That’s nothing new, getting the cane, ... That was that. I think I was more embarrassed than anything else.


One witness told the Committee that he had been in Artane before Daingean and he compared Daingean favourably. He found the regime strict but fair. Boys were only punished for wrongdoing in Daingean, whereas in Artane boys were beaten and struck for no reason. He also told the Committee that he was befriended by Br Macario in Daingean. He said this Brother was very kind to him and he felt he was protected by him. However, Br Macario took him to his room on a number of occasions and discussed how he was developing physically. He used to ask him to remove his clothes and lie on the bed. Br Macario then proceeded to measure him with a tape. The witness was adamant that nothing else took place. Some time later, he inadvertently told another Brother that he was being measured by Br Macario. Soon after, Br Macario came up to him and told him not to tell anyone but to keep it secret that he was measured by him. Years later, he again met Br Macario, who asked him whether he was still keeping their secret. The witness realised that perhaps this Brother had an ulterior motive. This disappointed him because he trusted him.


Although they conceded that some allegations of sexual abuse were ‘prima facie honest and coherent’, the Oblates contended that, in the absence of corroboration, the only way to safeguard the rights of their members was to make no general finding of abuse. The Oblates also asserted that there was ‘insufficient evidence before the Commission to make a finding that such abuse did occur’. They further contended that to make a general finding of abuse ‘casts a cloud over the reputation of every person who has worked in Daingean and irrevocably damages their good name and the good name of the Oblate Order’.


Sexual abuse of boys by staff took place in Daingean, as testified by complainant witnesses. The full extent is impossible to quantify because of the absence of a proper system of receiving and handling complaints. The system that was put in place tended to suppress complaints rather than to reveal abuse or even to bring about investigations. The conviction of Br Ramon warrants a re-evaluation of the late 1960s episode.


In 1960, the criminal trial of a man who lived beside the Reformatory gave rise to concerns about the supervision of the boys and to enquiries by the Department. Patrick O’Reilly 31 was found not guilty on charges of buggery, attempted buggery and indecent assault, but was convicted of assisting in an escape from the Reformatory and harbouring an escapee. He was given a two-month suspended sentence. An outstanding charge of indecent assault was not proceeded with by the State.


A file entitled ‘Alleged Acts of Gross Indecency Committed Against [sic] Inmate of St Conleth’s Reformatory School, Daingean,’ was included in the discovered documents of the Department of Education, and it dealt with the Garda investigation that led to the prosecution. No documents about the matter were contained in the Congregation’s documentation.

  1. This is the English version of Tomás O Deirg.
  2. This is a pseudonym.
  3. This is a pseudonym.
  4. This is a pseudonym.
  5. This is a pseudonym.
  6. This is the Irish version of Sugrue.
  7. This is a pseudonym.
  8. This is a pseudonym.
  9. This is a pseudonym.
  10. This is a pseudonym.
  11. This is a pseudonym.
  12. This is a pseudonym.
  13. This is a pseudonym.
  14. This is a pseudonym.
  15. This is a pseudonym.
  16. This is the Irish version of Richard Crowe.
  17. This is the English version of Mr MacConchradha.
  18. Allegations of brutal beatings in Court Lees Approved School were made in a letter to The Guardian, and this led to an investigation which reported in 1967 (see Administration of Punishment at Court Lees Approved School (Cmnd 3367, HMSO)) – Known as ‘The Gibbens Report’, it found many of the allegations proven, and in particular that canings of excessive severity did take place on certain occasions, breaking the regulation that caning on the buttocks should be through normal clothing. Some boys had been caned wearing pyjamas. Following this finding, the School was summarily closed down.
  19. This is a pseudonym.
  20. This is the English version of Ó Síochfhradha.
  21. This is a pseudonym.
  22. This is a pseudonym.
  23. This is a pseudonym.
  24. This is a pseudonym.
  25. This is a pseudonym.
  26. This was Br Abran.
  27. Organisation that offers therapy to priests and other religious who have developed sexual or drink problems run by The Servants of the Paraclete.
  28. This is a pseudonym.
  29. This is a pseudonym.
  30. This is a pseudonym.
  31. This is a pseudonym.
  32. This is a pseudonym.
  33. This is a pseudonym.
  34. This is a pseudonym.
  35. Board of Works.
  36. Bread and butter.
  37. Board of Works.
  38. Patrick Clancy, ‘Education Policy’, in Suzanne Quinn, Patricia Kennedy, Anne Matthews, Gabriel Kiely (eds), Contemporary Irish Social Policy (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2005), p 79.
  39. This is a pseudonym.