Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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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.


She spoke of her earliest recollections of Cappoquin: My recollection was, you know, to bring up kids – being a mother myself and to bring up kids in a home I found it always very sad for kids, you know, and I could identify with them, the sadness they were going through ... I came from a loving home myself.


She commented on the lack of love shown to the children: I found the set-up, there was a lot of children ... there was plenty of food, but giving them a hot meal and giving it to them with love, you know, and things like that, I found that was a bit lacking, you know ... and kids coming from different background and sadness, you know, it was – I felt kind of shocked because I hadn’t experienced that kind of thing.


From the time that Sr Callida became Resident Manager of the two group homes in the early 1980s, management problems arose almost immediately, as had been identified by Mr Granville in his General Inspection Report of this time.


Ms Waters gave evidence of a system that was incapable of delivering a proper level of childcare. One of her main problems was the lack of respect shown to the care staff by Sr Callida that led to unhappiness amongst the staff. They were not consulted about anything and were not even given notice of their work schedule, which was often delivered a day in advance on the back of an envelope. There was no regular timetable for rostering of staff, which made family life for the care workers very difficult.


In addition, she identified differences in the way the two homes were run. Group Home A, which was managed directly by Sr Callida, received preferential treatment in terms of finance and facilities, which impacted on the children in Group Home B.

  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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