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Chapter 5 — Lota

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Sexual abuse


The case against him was so overwhelming in 1951 it defies belief that the authorities could have seen fit to place him in a residential school for vulnerable young boys. Yet, this is precisely what they did, in the hope that ‘Br Guthrie will be all right in Lota’. On 1st August 1951, when Br Guthrie was in trouble with the police in England, Father Harvey wrote: p.s. I am anxious to know if both are safe in Ireland. When you are sure of this will you please send me a telegram, “Everything all right”.


Br Guthrie was stowed ‘safe’ in Lota, with no regard for the safety and welfare of the boys residing there. That decision can only be seen as one taken to protect the Brothers of Charity from scandal and prosecution.


Br O’Shea in his Opening Statement, made two assertions about sexual abuse prior to 1995: Prior to 1995, there were a few isolated allegations of abuse which were dealt with as deemed appropriate at the time. However, it was not until late 1995 that there was an awareness of more widespread abuse or the damage it had caused.


He also stated that there was no awareness before 1995 of the damage that sexual abuse could cause. This is not borne out by the documented evidence. The serious effects of sex abuse were made abundantly clear to the Congregation in the series of reports written by child psychiatrists in 1984.


The victims of Br Guthrie were sexually abused so frequently that it became part of their daily lives. As they had no power to do otherwise, they obeyed his demands, and it was only years later that they were strong enough to come forward and report what had been done to them. In the course of his Garda statement, one of the complainants said: What was happening between the Brother and myself I thought were the rules of the school. I was told when I went to the school first, that the Brothers were to be obeyed at all times and anything they ask you to do you were to do it. The convicted sexual abusers: Br Dieter Conviction: UK (September 1998)


In September 1998, Br Dieter received his first criminal conviction in the UK on the complaint of George,22 a resident in a residential home and sheltered accommodation for vulnerable adults run by the Brothers of Charity in the UK. Br Dieter had been transferred there in 1970, after the disclosure of sexual abuse in Galway; described below. The abuse took place between 1971 and 1973. He was placed on probation for three years, on condition that he attended a sexual offenders course run by the probation service in the UK. Conviction: Cork Circuit Criminal Court (November 1999)


In November 1999, Br Dieter received one of the most severe sentences ever imposed in this country for crimes of child sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty to 18 sample counts of child abuse of young boys in Lota. Br Dieter received two years’ imprisonment in respect of each count (36 years) with a review in 18 months. This review was heard in June 2001 and the remainder of his sentence was suspended. Conviction: Galway Circuit Court (November 2000)


Br Dieter pleaded guilty to 22 counts of child sexual abuse of boys in Renmore at Galway Circuit Court in November 2000. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, with the condition that the three-year sentence run from the same date as the Cork sentence received in 1999. Conviction: Cork Circuit Criminal Court (February 2002)


In 2002, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, with four years suspended, after pleading guilty to two sample counts of sexually abusing boys in Lota. Some 75 other charges were taken into account.


Br Dieter was born in the 1920s. He was the second youngest in a family of five children. His father died when he was young, and the following year he was recruited into the Brothers of Charity and was sent to the Juniorate in Preston in the UK. His mother died of cancer during his first year in the Juniorate and he was not allowed home for her funeral. He told the Committee that he was sexually abused once during his time in the Juniorate by a boy four years older than himself. He never reported the incident because he hero-worshipped the other boy.


He was in the Juniorate from the age of 11 until he was professed when he was 18. When he was a postulant, on an annual retreat, a priest had invited him to his room and had made sexual advances. He resisted them ‘and felt very angry about what had happened’.


Initially, he wanted to become a teacher, but his Irish language skills were poor, so he could not train as one. Instead, he began work as a carer in Belmont Park Psychiatric Hospital, a private hospital run by the Brothers of Charity. In 1945, when he was 20 years old, he was transferred to Lota to work as a nurse with severely disabled children. They were ‘confined to bed, and they needed spoon feeding and they needed to be individually sort of encouraged to use the toilet’. He did this arduous work for six years. He lost weight and became quite ill. During this time, the Superior made sexual advances to him, and he began to have thoughts that he might be homosexual. He recalled years later, to the psychologist at Stroud, that a relative (his sister) used to visit him on a Sunday. While she was there, the Superior invited her up to his room for a coffee. She accepted. He was approached by the Superior early in the morning and was told that she had stayed the night, and he asked him to take her home before any of the Brothers found out. Br Dieter was ‘very upset by this discovery’. Again, he was afraid to say anything about it.


Br Dieter was struggling with his sexual orientation, and trying to control his sexual urges, yet his early experience in the Brothers of Charity was that the vow of celibacy was being regularly broken by religious men of standing and authority.


In or around 1953/1954, he attended a training course in Belgium. When he returned to Lota in 1955, Our Lady of Good Counsel School had obtained official recognition as a Special School. Br Dieter described the new position he held within the School as a teacher ‘under inspection’. In 1957, the Department of Education recognised him as a teacher because of his experience. He was given the post of Assistant Teacher.


Following a period of teaching in Cork, he returned to Lota in 1961, and remained there until 1965.

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