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Chapter 1 — Department of Education

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Part 9 Missing files


Incident books, sometimes called ‘log books’, were kept by the various schools to record significant incidents or events within the schools or institutions. Matthias Kelly concluded: The Secretary General has assured me that the Department does not generally hold incident books at all. The point is made, that if such books do exist, and I would expect that such books do exist, they will be held by the various institutions themselves.


The precedent book was a record of decisions made relating to the certified schools system, catalogued in one place to allow for administrative ease. Mr Matthews, a former Assistant Secretary within the Department of Education, made reference to the existence of such a book in his evidence before the Commission. He stated that: the precedent book should still be there. No, there is no reason why it shouldn’t, because all the sections in the place, it was an essential feature of Government business, to know what the precedents were, just the same as in law.


However Mr Kelly concluded: ‘In my view there is no hard or reliable evidence that the book, as described, ever existed.’


This category refers to the general gaps in information regarding the Department of Education’s running of the Industrial Schools system. These files include certification files, general and medical inspection reports, internal Departmental memos, letters and general correspondence.

Sex abuse files


The Department of Education Statement to CICA in May 2006 stated: There are few cases of reported sexual abuse in the industrial and reformatory schools recorded in Departmental files (7 in all). We have no record of sexual of abuse issues surfacing during the course of normal inspections.


The seven abuse files are: Upton 1945 Kilkenny 1954 Ennis 1956 Daingean 1959 Artane 1960 Mr Brander TN030.


Ms Bridgid McManus, Secretary General of the Department of Education, gave evidence before CICA on 13th June 2006. In light of the absence of Departmental records relating to incidents of sexual abuse in the Industrial Schools and Reformatories over which the Department of Education presided, Ms McManus was asked if any efforts were made to ascertain from old employees, retired employees or even existing employees of the Department who worked in the relevant section, whether incidents of abuse may have been passed on to the Department, but were not reflected in the files. All senior administrative staff in the Department, at principal officer level and upward, and all existing and former Department inspectors were contacted. Following this line of questioning CICA was furnished with the responses received by the Department from former officials within the section; these responses did not give any information regarding undocumented cases of sexual abuse.


Subsequently other former staff members who had previously worked in the RISB or Special Education Section were contacted regarding specifically: the historic management and storage of files relating to the Industrial and Reformatory School system; their knowledge of any destruction or purging of such files; any information they may hold with regard to missing files or gaps in the Department’s records; departmental files relating to the Kennedy Committee; the use of a safe to hold sensitive and confidential files.


With regard to information ascertained from these efforts the Department of Education informed CICA that: While these interviews provided information in relation to the destruction in 1958/59 of some industrial and reformatory ledgers which predated the 1900s, they did not throw any light on any of the other matters mentioned above or on any particular arrangements for holding sensitive or confidential records in relation to incidents of abuse.


The case of Mr Brander and the file entitled TN030 are of most relevance to this chapter.


In September 1997, the Gardaí in Tullamore, County Offaly, wrote to the Department of Education (Primary Branch) informing them that Mr Brander, a former principal of Walsh Island National School, was the subject of a Garda investigation. The investigation related to incidents that took place during Mr Brander ’s time in Walsh Island. The Gardaí requested any information regarding complaints the Department may have received during the time in question. The Department stated that they conducted a ‘thorough search... Primary and Second Level Branches, but nothing came to light at the time’. In January 1998 a file containing papers relating to Mr Brander was discovered in Second Level Branch, Athlone. The papers included a letter, sent to the Department on 27th May 1982, by Mr Rothe who identified himself as a national teacher, living in Edenderry, alleging sexual abuse of boys by Mr Brander. Although a number of internal memos were found discussing a possible course of action, no reply to Mr Rothe was found amongst the papers.


Among these memos was correspondence from a higher executive officer, dated October 1983, stating than there were no records regarding Mr Brander as his cards and appointment file were missing.


The full story of this man’s career of abuse is told in Volume I Chapter 14.


TN030 is a Department of Education file titled ‘Meeting with Clonmel Authorities, Wednesday 04th December 1996’; the TN refers to the ‘Temporary Number’ assigned to this file. Contained within this file is correspondence between the Department of Education and Science and the Rosminian Order who operate St Joseph’s Special School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel. In particular it deals with a series of contacts from 1980-97 between Departmental officials and the institution and refers to incidents of child sexual abuse in the 1970s that are discussed in detail in Volume II Chapter 3.


In total there were three separate allegations made to the Department.