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Chapter 15 — Daingean

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Sexual abuse


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.


Michael32 had been sentenced to two years in Daingean in the late 1950s for house-breaking. He was aged 17 at the time. He absconded from the School seven months later, and was subsequently arrested and charged with house-breaking in Dublin. He was remanded in Mountjoy jail and, following his conviction, was sentenced to two years in St Patrick’s Institution.


When he was on remand in Mountjoy, he asked the Governor of the prison to allow him to speak to a Garda about events that he alleged had occurred whilst he was in Daingean. He told the Garda that a lay teacher, Mr Murphy,33 often took a group of boys down to the canal for swimming when the weather was fine, and that Mr O’Reilly befriended the teacher, who allowed the boys to visit the man’s house. This continued throughout that summer.


The boy alleged that the man sexually abused him and other boys during these visits, on one of which he was given alcohol by Mr O’Reilly and claimed that he passed out and did not come to until the next morning. He absconded from Daingean and went to Mr O’Reilly’s house where, he alleged, Mr O’Reilly forced him to hide until Christmas. He was locked in during the day and subjected to sexual assaults at night. Eventually, he escaped by breaking down the door and ran away to Dublin, where he remained at large until his arrest a month later on house-breaking charges. Whether the boy was imprisoned, as he claimed, or stayed willingly in the house, there is no doubt that he was there for a time and ultimately made good his escape from the Reformatory, because the owner was convicted of harbouring him and assisting his escape.


On hearing this story, the Garda investigated further and questioned five boys. Their interviews were conducted in the presence of Br Jaime, the Prefect of Daingean. Some of these boys, who were aged between 15 and 16, alleged that Mr O’Reilly had exposed himself to them, and some of them said that they had exposed themselves in turn. The Garda also interviewed neighbours of Mr O’Reilly, who confirmed that the reformatory boys were often in the house and that the lay teacher would leave them there and then come back for them later.


The investigating Garda observed in his report to his Superintendent: The facts of this case disclose a certain amount of laxity in the disciplinary supervision of the inmates of the Reformatory. The Superior of the School has informed the local Sergeant that he was unaware of the boys habit of frequenting [O’Reilly’s] house ... It will be noted that on most, if not all, of the occasions in which the boys visited [O’Reilly’s] house, they were in charge of Mr. [Murphy], the Music Master ... It is not suggested that Mr. [Murphy] was in actual collusion with [O’Reilly] but it would appear that he displayed an attitude of indifference to the moral welfare of his charges.


The Garda thought that a prosecution was warranted, but he was not offered much encouragement by the Resident Manager, who told him that Michael was ‘not of very good character, capable of imagining things, and not to be relied upon’.

  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.