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Chapter 8 — Letterfrack

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Sexual abuse in Letterfrack


He said that he remembered that Br Vallois46 left suddenly but stated that he did not discover that this was because he was sexually abusing children until many years later. Similarly, he said that he had no idea why Mr Albaric47 left. He speculated that, if there had been an investigation into the activities of Br Vallois, he might have been frightened into stopping his own activities.


Br Dax was cross-examined at length by the Congregation about what motivated or led him to sexually abuse children. He attributed his abusive activities to overwork and a feeling of isolation. Counsel for the Congregation put it to him that these were feelings that would have been shared by many members of staff in Letterfrack, yet they did not all resort to the sexual abuse of children for release. Br Dax later contended that his actions were due to a mix of isolation, loneliness and his own ‘human weakness’. Earlier in his evidence, Br Dax accepted that he could be described as a ‘loner’ and tended not to engage or socialise with the other Brothers in Letterfrack.


Br Dax confirmed that in his ‘human weakness’ his way of dealing with loneliness was to engage in sexual abuse of boys. When asked how he would go about satisfying that human weakness, Br Dax simply stated ‘Touching, embracing’. Br Dax could not explain why he behaved differently to other Brothers who were equally isolated from their families.


During cross-examination by counsel for a number of complainants, Br Dax said that the abuse was primarily about release for him. This was reiterated during his questioning by the Committee, when he stated that he never formed any emotional relationships with the boys.


While Br Dax admitted committing sexual offences against 25 boys in Letterfrack, only four of these gave evidence to the Investigation Committee. It follows that the full extent of this Brother’s sexual activity was not put before the Committee, even with regard to the crimes for which he was convicted.


One of the boys in respect of whom Br Dax pleaded guilty to having abused told the Committee that Br Dax selected him to work in the kitchen because the other kitchen boy had run away. At the time, he thought he was on the ‘pig’s back’, because working in the kitchen would give him access to extra food and warmth. He knew that Br Dax could be bad tempered but soon learned to adjust to his moods. He was alone in the kitchen the first time he was abused by Br Dax, and initially he did not realise anything bad was happening. He just thought that Br Dax was being affectionate.


However, matters soon deteriorated: Well it started off I was helping, I was doing little odd jobs before I actually went in as kitchen boy and suddenly there was nobody there except Br Dax. But I didn’t really, to me there was nothing wrong with it. He was being nice, you know. He used to call me [Robert].48 Never grown to hate a name so much. Anyway, we ended up in the back kitchen and I don’t know how he got up behind me, I never really thought about it, but suddenly his hands going up and down my tummy, and then his hands are inside my clothes and it is, “you are all right, [Robert], you are all right [Robert]”. He actually touched the top of my penis. Now, I didn’t know what sex was and suddenly he shivered and as I turned around, well, I know now what he was doing, he was ejaculating, but at the time, well, to be quite truthful, I thought he was deformed. You know, what the hell is this coming out of you? You want to go and see a doctor, and he actually gave me a cigarette but I didn’t smoke at the time. I gave it to one of the other boys for some Cleeves. Things like that went on ... One time when I was trying to stop it, he actually said, I would be paying a visit to the courthouse and I knew exactly what that meant ... That he would be taking me up to the courthouse and have me transferred to Daingean. That is the only possible reason you would go to the courthouse ... Do what he says or else. Yes. I mean, Letterfrack was bad. Daingean was worse. You know, I would commit suicide ...


He recalled the first time he was raped: Sex, my introduction to sex was in the back kitchen of Letterfrack, jammed up against a boiler, getting my leg burnt and getting raped by Br Dax.


He continued: ... we had showers every Saturday, Saturday afternoon. So, yes. He ended up behind me again, but it was different. He started to open my clothes and I am “stop it” and he jammed me between two boilers. Well, one boiler really. He was at the other, and I was at this one. He started trying to put something into me, and at the time, I honestly didn’t know what it was, and suddenly I got this unmerciful pain and – well, I went off into a different world. I don’t know, but when I actually, I won’t say came back – he was on his knees in front of me, buttoning up my fly. “Are you are all right?” Every time I moved I had this pain, and I went out to the boys toilets and I sat there. I was sobbing my heart out. Somebody shouted in “showers”. We all had to go to our dormitories for showers, and I still couldn’t understand what he had done with me. I mean anyway, we used to go down to the showers wearing a pair of swimming trunks that were made by the School, and I think it was 20 at a time, I am not sure. There was a line here and a line there and a handle at the end. I was at the end. Br Guillaume49 took showers. I was sobbing my heart out. Now Br Guillaume was the type of man that if I broke wind in the farmyard, he knew about it in the play yard. He had his finger on it, it didn’t matter what went on in the school, I don’t know how, we used to wonder how he knew, but he never asked me what happened. The only thing I can think of is he knew what happened. Anyway, that night, the cinemas, and the boys sat on the seats here. It was a projection room behind and the Brothers used to sit there or around the potbelly fire. Br Dax came in, and I was in the middle and he called up my line, “[Robert, Robert] here” . Was a half slab of Cleeves. Well, I took it and I just slung it, I want nothing off the – and that is something that isn’t often done – well, it wasn’t to my experience, and Br Guillaume was behind, he had to see. Why am I getting this preferential treatment? I won’t say I find it hard to believe, I find it impossible to believe that he didn’t know, not only what went on, but what was going on. There is no way, what happened to me over that period of time, that they didn’t know. All of them. Every single one of them, and I hope they all rot in hell.


The witness said that he knew that the same was happening to other boys, because of the way Br Dax behaved towards them, which would now be called grooming: Yes, I knew how he behaved with me and I could see the way he was behaving with them, and it was identical ... “Come and help me with the chickens”, that was regarded as a little perk. Or “let’s go down to the orchard, I want to get some apples. I am going to make apple jam”, or something or other. You knew damn well he wasn’t making apple jam. The man couldn’t boil an egg. I done most of the bloody cooking, but you knew, you seen all the signs.


He said that the boys reacted in different ways: some went very quiet, whilst others became aggressive, but the change in them was very noticeable. He identified two individuals whom he was convinced Br Dax was abusing, although they never said anything to him.


He was cross-examined on his assertion that the Congregation knew about Br Dax’s activities: To say that they didn’t know would be to say that the sun doesn’t shine tomorrow because in a school like that, there is 120 boys, they all know what is going on. Everyone knew what was going on, there were very few that didn’t know, the only thing was we didn’t speak about it because we were ashamed of it. I am still ashamed of it, I should have cut his bloody throat. He didn’t know? Br Guillaume didn’t know? I sat down and sobbed my heart out, that man knew and he never answered. He should have turned around and said to me “what was going on, why are you crying?” but what did he do he continued on with the shower and sent me up to dry off – he didn’t know? ... If I was to stand in front of my maker tomorrow I would have the same position, they knew what went on. Some of them were doing it, some of them were covering it ... The ones that were covering are twice as guilty as the ones that didn’t because they could have stopped it.


Counsel for Br Dax stated that he had no questions for the complainant. Br Dax was asked during his own evidence whether he had any recollection of the complainant and replied that he did not, even though the complainant was one of the individuals in respect of whom he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing. In his response statement, Br Dax adopted a Garda Statement in which he stated that he remembered the complainant and that he worked in the kitchen. He accepted that he would have caught and pulled him towards him on several occasions, and that he would have touched his private parts and ejaculated at the same time. He also accepted the allegation that he came up behind the complainant while the latter was cleaning the kitchen, undressed him and raped him. He could not recall how often this type of activity occurred but he accepted that it did happen on several occasions, either in the kitchen or the storeroom. The complainant was about 15 at the time. He said that he was ‘deeply sorry for the hurt caused and I apologise’.


Another witness who gave evidence was also one of the individuals Br Dax admitted sexually abusing. Br Dax pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting this witness. The witness’s evidence was that the abuse occurred during milking time, but this was strongly disputed by the Congregation in cross-examination who pointed out that the records proved that Br Dax did not have farming duties, and that his duties in the kitchen would have made it impossible for him to have been around the milking sheds during milking. Br Dax did not dispute the witness’s evidence at the hearing, and the issue of whether Br Dax had duties other than the kitchen was raised only by the Congregation.


The evidence of this witness was that Br Dax would ask him to stay behind after the milking was done. He said that Br Dax started kissing and fondling him and then he had to ‘touch him up’. This happened about three times a week until he was released. On one occasion, the witness attempted to stop Br Dax by cutting himself with a knife. Br Dax panicked and, when the Resident Manager asked what happened, he told him that the witness had slipped. The witness said that, following his discharge from Letterfrack, Br Dax visited him at home and attempted to abuse him there but he was able to resist.

  1. Letterfrack Industrial School, Report on archival material held at Cluain Mhuire, by Bernard Dunleavy BL (2001).
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  6. Prior Park was a residential school run by the Christian Brothers near Bath, England.
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  19. This document is undated, although the date ‘6th November 1964’ is crossed out.
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  32. See table at paragraph 3.20 .
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  36. This information is taken from a report compiled for the Christian Brothers by Michael Bruton in relation to Letterfrack in 2001.
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  58. Electricity Supply Board.
  59. See table at paragraph 8.21 .
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  61. Cross-reference to CB General Chapter where notes that this arrangement was with the agreement of the Department of Education.
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  65. Gateways Chapter 3 goes into this in detail.