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Chapter 3 — Ferryhouse

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Sexual abuse


Mr Garnier lived and worked in Clonmel and was a voluntary worker in the School for many years. He had free access everywhere in the Institution, even in the dormitories when the boys were going to bed and afterwards. He had particular contact with ‘C’ Group, which was managed by Br Leone, who was a friend of his. Another man from Clonmel, named Mr Tablis,24 had similar access on the basis of his friendship with Fr Lucio, the Resident Manager.


Fr Paolo recalled Mr Garnier and Mr Tablis being there in the 1970s, but did not remember them being there in the mid-1960s, although it seems that Mr Garnier certainly had access over many years, which could indeed have extended back to that earlier period. Fr Paolo was suspicious of the two men. He thought that they had no business being in any of the dormitories, and made sure that they did not come to his group, ‘A’ Group. Although Fr Paolo was careful in what he said about these men, he agreed that it was inappropriate for them to be in any dormitory, and that his concern would have been less if they had been in the downstairs gym or a ground-floor recreation area.


Despite Fr Paolo’s concern about the incursions into the boys’ dormitory, and his determination to keep such men out of the one under his control, he did not interfere in what another Brother was doing. The convention of allowing colleagues to run their ‘empires’ as they thought fit remained paramount, even when the safety of the boys was an issue.


Fr Stefano arrived in the mid-1970s. He said that Mr Garnier was someone who had an involvement with Ferryhouse for many years and that his access was in two main areas. On Sunday nights, he used to come and play cards with the boys ‘and he would go up along to the dormitory with them, it would be mainly the senior dormitory, from what I recollect’. He never heard anyone make a complaint about Mr Garnier and did not at the time think that there was anything inappropriate in his having access to dormitories. He ‘never had any reason to suspect anything wrong was going on’. He said local community helpers were needed and appreciated in Ferryhouse, and the two men were accepted in that context. They had a long history of involvement in the School ‘probably because there were so few people to do anything’. Outsiders were involved in the sports day and in fundraising, and people were in and out all the time. He said that it could happen that the Brother in charge of the senior dormitory would be required to drive a distance of some miles to collect a boy who had absconded, for example. In such circumstances, he thought it was likely that Mr Garnier would have volunteered to stay on. Fr Stefano accepted that he was perhaps somewhat naïve, in not being uncomfortable about the access that Mr Garnier was permitted. He suggested that, if there was an error of judgement or a lack of alertness, it should be seen against a background of involvement by the local people in helping Ferryhouse.


There is an enormous difference between involvement by the community in the running of the Institution, and allowing outsiders to enter the boys’ dormitories and to spend time there on a frequent basis. Clearly, the Brother in charge of the dormitory, Br Leone, should not have permitted the access, but he happened to be the contact in the School on whom Mr Garnier relied, and who introduced him to the School in the first place.


Mr Garnier told the Gardaí how his contact with Ferryhouse began: I know Br Leone for years. A lot of the boys went to the technical school. That is boys from Ferryhouse School. I saw Br Leone bringing them to school and I got chatting to them. That’s how it started roughly 28 years ago.


Fr Paolo told the Committee he was uneasy about what was going on, and while he would not have allowed the man into the dormitory under his charge, he did not make his concerns known. As in many other cases, Brothers did not interfere with what other Brothers were doing.


Before Fr Stefano took over as Resident Manager in the mid-1970s, Fr Lucio was in charge, and he permitted similar access to his friend, Mr Tablis. With such connections over such a period of time, it is unlikely that any action would have been taken, even if Fr Paolo had reported his unease about the access enjoyed by these outsiders.


Fr Ricardo25 was present in the School for two periods during the 1970s and 1980s. He gave evidence to the Committee, and he also did not see anything inappropriate about Mr Garnier’s access. He said: He used to play a lot of cards, particularly Friday evening and he would help Br Leone in playing cards, that basically was his job. Sometimes he would lock up the unit or come up with Br Leone and he might come up to the dormitory but generally he would go off then before Br Leone would turn the lights out. And I think Br Leone would have seen Mr Garnier, or [Christian name], as I would have known him, as some kind of a help, to help him to get the boys to bed.


Mr Garnier confirmed to the Gardaí the level of his involvement with the School. He visited regularly about once a week. He would play table tennis with the boys, and would play cards; he worked at the School sports day and helped with the pantomimes and the Strawberry Fair. In addition, he said: I’d take some boys out for drives. About four or five boys at a time. I had my own car. We went to Youghal once and the steam rally in Upton.


The boys would also visit him in his house in Clonmel after visiting the cinema, and he would give them ‘a drink of minerals and maybe some money’.


He mostly remembered the boys in the older group in Br Leone’s care who were about 14 or 16 years old. He was with the seniors more than the juniors but he had contact with all the groups. He bought sweets and gifts for the boys. Mr Garnier denied allegations made by boys that he had fondled and masturbated them, but he did admit having had sexual contact with two boys in Ferryhouse. The first one happened at a time when Br Leone was in charge of the group, and Fr Lucio was the Resident Manager. The incident happened in the ‘C’ Group dormitory. He described how he had kissed the boy and sexually abused him.


The abuse with the other boy followed the same format. He was in ‘C’ Group, which was under the stewardship of Br Leone.


A witness resident in Ferryhouse in 1970s alleged in his evidence to the Committee that Mr Garnier sexually abused him. Mr Garnier was not represented at the hearing. The witness said that Mr Garnier was a friend of Br Leone and that he would visit the School regularly. He spent a lot of time in the junior dormitory and only left when the lights were turned off: He used to come into the school and he would be up in the juniors, upstairs with the juniors. He would be buying sweets, he would buy torches and he would buy different things for you.


He also visited Mr Garnier’s house in Clonmel: We had gone to the cinema and we were on our way back, thumbing likewise. [Mr Garnier] pulls up and says “you can come up to the gaff for a few cigarettes”. Deadly, you know. We went up and he gave us 10 smokes.

  1. This is a pseudonym.
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  6. Set out in full in Volume I.
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  11. Br Valerio did not give evidence to the Committee; he lives abroad.
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  19. This is believed to be a reference to the Upton punishment book.
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  37. Latin for surprise and wonder.
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  50. Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Press Publishing Services, 2003), pp 399–405.
  51. Brid Fahey Bates, p 401.
  52. Cussen Report; p 53.
  53. Cussen Report, p 54
  54. Cussen Report, p 55
  55. Cussen Report, p 52.
  56. Cussen Report, p 49.
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  58. Kennedy Report, Chapter 7.