This witness described in detail an incident which he believed was a punishment for trying to get out of playing hurling, the sport in the charge of Br Olivier. The witness described how he developed a blister on his finger and tried to lance it with a needle, as he had seen his grandmother doing. He said that Br Olivier, however: ... accused me of deliberately trying to harm myself to avoid going training. He said he would cure it for me. That evening in the dormitory, him and Br Boyce19 called me into the boot room ... they had a kidney shaped utensil and boiling water. They got hold of me and I realised what they were going to do and I tried to make a run for it. The pair of them got hold of me and Br Olivier got my finger and shoved it in. I screamed and roared and tried to pull it back and they held it. After 10 or 15 seconds the pain went. It just went numb and it was bearable. They held it in for a while and out it come. That’s when he told me to walk the passageway, gangway which was linoleum in the centre of the dormitory. As time went on it swelled, it swelled. He obviously went to bed.
Moreover, the respondents’ defence was more cautious than a totally innocent explanation of the incident would suggest. In cross-examination, the complainant was initially told that Br Boyce had no recollection of the event, casting doubt on whether it had taken place. When he gave evidence, however, Br Boyce recalled the incident and said the water was not boiling. It turned out that both Brothers could recall the event, but insisted the motive was driven solely by concern to cure the finger.
One witness described a punishment chosen to fit the crime. The witness was in Artane from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, and he described one incident: I was given my own suit, as I say. The very first Sunday I was there, that was the first time I wore it because that was when we wore our best suits. During the Mass I had terrible runs. I ran down the passageway to the door and Br Cretien blocked my way. He said “You can’t go. The host is exposed”. I had to wait until the Host was put away and then I made a beeline. The latrines were a good 100 yards from where the chapel was. I never made it and I soiled my pants. In those days, in 1945, they didn’t have flush lavatories. It was a box with a bucket underneath. The paper was newspapers cut up. I done my best to clean my pants. We didn’t have underpants in those days, we had lined trousers. I did my best to clean myself and wipe it but I stunk. After breakfast when I went to the dormitory I had to report to Br Boyce he was in charge of dormitory five then ... Everybody was busy doing their scrubbing and he told me to take my clothes off. They never had hot water in Artane, the cold tap was put on, I stood in it naked and he got the lads who had the big long scrubbers to scrub me. They weren’t very strong and he didn’t think they were doing a bloody good job anyway. He got the hand scrubber and he said, “I will show you”. (Indicating) He scrubbed all my buttocks and legs down. I was red raw after it. He threw me out. I had to dress there and then. No drying off or anything. That was my only experience with Br Boyce.
Br Boyce, who was in the Institution at around the same time, said that he was aware of the possibility of peer abuse, or ‘badness’ as it was known, but that he never came across it, and his knowledge of the subject came not from the Brothers but from overhearing boys’ conversations. He confirmed that he ordered the boys to sleep with their hands crossed, but said that it was nothing to do with masturbation, it was just the custom.
A complainant accused one Brother, Br Boyce, of flogging him. He got a flogging from this Brother and half an hour later got one from another Brother, Br Cheney. He did not know why. Br Boyce hit him with a ‘leather’. ‘These leathers weren’t just light pieces of string, they were severe actually’. The complainant stated that the attack was a painful moment for him as Br Boyce was ‘a very nice lad actually and I was surprised to be attacked like that’. It was uncharacteristic of the Brother. Br Boyce, who gave evidence to the Committee, denied flogging the boy.
Br Boyce conceded that, although he never experienced any bullying or preying on the younger boys by the older ones, the boys were very clever and he would not know that it was going on. No boy ever came to him and he said that, if you asked a boy, he would not tell because the others would retaliate.
The other respondent witnesses claimed to have never encountered peer abuse. This included Br Boyce, who acknowledged that the boys were very clever and he would not know if it was going on. He also said that no boy ever told him he was being bullied or preyed on. He also said that, if you thought it was happening and asked a boy, ‘he wouldn’t tell you anyway’ because the ‘others would give out to him’. Br Chapin said that, although he was aware of the possibility of sexual activity among the boys, he never came across it. He said that the Brothers were warned to keep an eye out for ‘bullying and for anything else’. He disagreed that there was an obsession in uncovering that kind of activity in Tralee. Another respondent, Br Lisle, was not aware of sexual activity between the boys.
Another Brother, Br Boyce, who had also worked in Artane, said that Tralee was more relaxed than Artane, for both the Brothers and the boys. He said that the small numbers there meant that they could deal with the boys easily. He was able to talk to the boys more easily. The boys were the same kind as in Artane, although he thought the boys were more relaxed in Tralee. He felt that the boys were helped, i.e. emotionally supported, by the smaller numbers in the School.