Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 5 — Lota

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Sexual abuse


When asked by his counsel, ‘is that the extent of what happened with [the boy]’, Br Eric replied ‘That was the extent of it yes’.

Conclusions on sexual abuse


1.Br Guthrie perpetrated sexual abuse for 32 years with at least 100 victims. Br Dieter, who had a room at the other end of the Sancta Maria dormitory from Br Guthrie, was in Lota for 20 years, with a few short breaks, and then was in Renmore for four years, when he was removed and sent to finish his teaching career in England. Between them, these two sexual abusers operated in schools run by the Brothers of Charity in Ireland for 58 years. Both were promoted to Principal, and one of them to Chairman of the Board. Several of their colleagues were also accused of sexually abusing children. The crucial questions are, ‘how did this disturbing history of sexual abuse come about?’ and ‘what allowed it to continue for so long?’. 2.Lota was an enclosed and inward-looking Institution, and the pavilion system created three enclosed worlds within an enclosed world. The Brothers in charge had complete autonomy and acted without fear of repercussion. 3.The children with learning disabilities were treated as ‘different’, with fewer rights than children outside the Institution. Their near-total dependency on adults to care for them and protect them made them very vulnerable. 4.There was no training provided and no internal structure within the Congregation for reviewing the performance of individual Brothers. Once Brothers were appointed to Lota, they could remain there for decades, even if their performance was unacceptable and unprofessional and their behaviour fell below ethical and moral standards. With no system of inspection and no external supervision, sexual abusers were able to operate with little fear of detection. 5.When sexual abuse was discovered, management failed to take action. They chose to protect the Institution and the reputation of the Congregation, rather than the children. It was the failure of leadership to manage the problem, and remove the abusers, that allowed the sexual abuse to become systemic and pervasive within the Institution.

Emotional abuse and neglect


As a result of their learning disability, the children of Lota were more dependent and vulnerable than children in general. They required additional attention and help from their care-givers. This need for someone to look after them emerged from the evidence heard at the hearings. Graham told the Committee: My first memory of Lota would be I made friends with the women teachers there ... Yes, they were nice to me. They were kind to me, and I felt more at home with them, an awful lot more so because there was only one reason I can say about these teachers, these women teachers, is that like my own mother, my own mother would have been motherly to me up to, maybe, the time she had me, you know. I realised afterwards that I was privileged to have a mother, even though I didn’t know what kind of a mother she was, but I was glad to have her.


After leaving Lota, he could not praise enough the kindness that ‘other people’s mothers’ had shown to him. He said: But apart from that, I have experienced other mothers’ care with me, and I found loving mothers that I met up with, other people’s mothers.


He then added: even though I said that with the women teachers I felt at home with them, but still I couldn’t say anything to them because it would get back to the Brothers about what I said. So even though I appreciated the women teachers, I appreciate them as schoolteachers and that they have never done any harm on me, but it takes big giant 6 foot men to upset you, to do what they like with you because the public out there did not know what was going on in that bloody industrial school.


The happiest day of his life was when, after the deprivations of his childhood, he finally found a family through marriage: It was one of the most nicest and wonderful day I ever had because a family were accepting me into their family and especially my mother-in-law, my mother-in-law to be, and then ... my wife to be. These few days were wonderful days in my adulthood. I saw that there were people there who cared.


The irony about Lota was that the Brothers who provided the care and the good times were also the sexual abusers. Conall told the Committee: Yes, there was happy times too. I cannot deny that. A lot of people say there was not but there is. There was, of course, it was not all doom and gloom, let us be honest about it. There was good times as well ... The bikes ... The football, I was interested a lot in sports, gymnastics and things ... Even the plays, things we did ... I have to say, I thought Br Guthrie was nice to me at the beginning.


The emotional state of learning disabled children in the residential schools was seldom given much consideration by the Brothers of Charity. Putting children through the school system was the priority, not whether they were contented and happy. Children with learning disability had a greater need in this regard and they were frequently not regarded as experiencing the full range of human emotions.

General conclusions


General conclusions 1. The Congregation kept records about sexual abuse allegations concerning lay people, and routinely involved the Gardai. The situation was different for Brothers. The allegations were dealt with internally, and no records were kept, or else were kept in codified language. For this reason, factual information about the true extent of sexual abuse did not exist, and abusers were left free to abuse again. 2. The Brothers of Charity failed in their duty of care to the children in Lota, in that they placed a known sexual abuser, unsupervised, in a school with the most vulnerable and at-risk children. They ought to have known that he would commit similar offences. 3. By placing a known abuser in Lota, to avoid the intervention of the English police who were investigating him for sexual abuse offences, the Order showed total disregard for the safety of children in their care. 4. The Brothers of Charity put the reputation of the Congregation over and above the safety and care of children who were among the most vulnerable in the State. 5. The inadequate system of vetting and monitoring staff allowed abusive Brothers to be placed in managerial positions, with direct responsibility for and control over the entire School, staff and boys. Their position of authority within the School made detection an even more remote possibility. 6. When Br Guthrie was removed from his duties in 1984, supervision of him was so inadequate that he still took children from another school on camping trips, and made persistent and unwelcome contact with a boy he had been abusing, to the point of taking him away on further excursions. 7. The Brothers of Charity, despite knowing of his sexually abusive behaviour, removed Br Dieter to an institution in the UK where he abused again. 8. The management of the Brothers of Charity consistently failed to provide a safe environment for the children in their care. 9. When sexual abuse was disclosed, the Brothers of Charity did not conduct any proper investigation into the extent of the abuse. They simply removed the abusers and continued working as before. 10. The Department of Education and the Department of Health did not undertake any regular inspections of either the School, or boys in the care of the School, which could have identified problems occurring in the School. The residents were placed in a School where the Congregation who was charged with their care was reckless and negligent. 11. The additional duty of care owed to these children was not provided by the Brothers or by the State, who delegated this responsibility without provision to ensure that the necessary quality of care was provided. 12. It is incorrect for the Congregation to claim that it only appreciated the extent of the problem of sexual abuse after 1995, when the Gardai became involved. The limited documentation that has survived clearly indicated that those in positions of authority within the Congregation were aware that children in their care were at risk of sexual abuse, and were in fact being sexually abused. 13. In its Emergence Statement to this Commission, the Congregation did not examine its own management failures that led to the appalling situation in Lota. The extent of the sexual abuse which was perpetrated in Lota on dependant and vulnerable children was not solely a result of the actions of predatory sexual abusers, but was also due to the extraordinary ambivalence of the Congregation to sexual abuse when committed by one of its own members.

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  2. Health Service Executive.
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  13. King’s Counsel.
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