Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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Ms Tierney said that Sr Serena,12 the Superior of the convent often stayed overnight in Group Home A with Sr Callida. This Sister did not interact with the staff at all but, she said, had a particular child whom she singled out for attention and whom she would keep with her during her visits to Group Home A: She just was around all the time. She was around all the time ... Every day after work she would come and she would call into our place most days after work. It was a regular occurrence. She would stay and wander around and she would be down to Callida. She had a little pet that was her little pet, one of the kids that was there, and she would come in and she would make a big fuss over this child and hold her hand and wander around and really make the rest of the kids feel very inferior to this one particular child.


Sr Serena and Sr Callida went up to the convent at about 6pm for prayers, and then they would return to the Home for the evening.


They went away together quite often without giving notice. Sr Callida had a little girl who slept with her at night, and she would sometimes take that child or other children with her on her excursions: Also, the fact that the kids slept in the bedroom, and she nearly always had a young child sleeping in the bedroom with her. It just became a habit over the years. Some of the staff used to try and get the child not to go in there but the child just always went in and she always brought her in. When she would go down to bed at night she would bring her with her.


When Sr Callida went away: She used bring her with her most of the time. Most of the time they would bring some of the younger kids away with them.


She was not told where the children were or how long they would be gone: No. We might be told, maybe, to pack a bag for someone an hour before they went, but that was about it. We just weren’t important, we weren’t told anything. We weren’t told anything.


Ms Tierney recalled one occasion when a man walked into the Home accompanied by two other men and took his children away. Sr Callida left within half an hour and did not return for two days. In the meantime, this young care-worker did not know where the children were or whether the Gardaí had been informed about their removal. She said she was very traumatised by the incident and was frightened that the father would come back in the night.


She described Sr Callida’s drinking: She was well noted for it in the town ... Any time I met her out, if I was in an occasion to meet her in the pub, she would be very drunk.


She recalled on one occasion that Sr Callida was so drunk that she fell into the playpen on top of one of the children.


She said it was a regular occurrence for Sr Callida to be drunk in Group Home A: That was a regular occurrence, very regular occurrence. There was no big secret about it, everyone knew, everyone knew she drank. That’s what I found very hard to understand how everyone in the community knew what she was like and fellows knew that she was pissed going around the town and she would be out at nightclubs and different things.


In addition to the drinking, Sr Callida also entertained past pupils in Group Home A at night and allowed them to stay there: The night that I remember Mr Owens13 being there, there were five men in the house that night stayed overnight that night. Two of them were ex-residents and two of them were total strangers. But she would leave the house then.


Ms Tierney was uneasy caring for the children in the house on her own: You would have them coming and going during the days. At the weekend, you wouldn’t know who – you just never knew who was going to turn up at the place or what was going to happen. It was just chaos.


She described how she and the children were frightened by one of these visitors: They were scared that night that Mr Owens was going around the house ... we went down to the bedroom and I had a couple of teenagers in the room with me and we all stayed there that night because we were all frightened of him. I am sure there was times when they were frightened.


Matters came to a head in the early 1990s. She realised that the children needed better support and it was not forthcoming. Having spoken with her family, she decided that she should report her concerns to the Reverend Mother of the Diocese and that she would then hand in her notice. Within two weeks, the Reverend Mother came to the home and interviewed staff.


Another witness, Ms Waters,14 was House Mother in Group Home B, the second group home at Cappoquin from the 1980s, and she gave evidence about her serious concerns at the way Group Home A was run and the impact this had on the children there.


Ms Waters started work on a part-time basis in Cappoquin in the mid-1970s, shortly before it closed as an industrial school. She did not have any formal childcare training, apart from completing a correspondence course in the early 1980s. Eventually, she became House Mother of Group Home B in the mid-1980s.

  1. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
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  21. This is a pseudonym. Sr Lorenza later worked in St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny. See St Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny chapter.
  22. Mother Carina.
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