However, Br John O’Shea, who is the Regional Leader of the Brothers of Charity in Ireland and Britain, talked of the ‘authoritarian atmosphere’ prevalent in schools at the time, and went on to explain what he meant. He said: In a general sense, and I will go back to my own school days or whatever, that there was a very different perception of people in authority. I suppose we had all kinds of sayings like "children were to be seen and not heard", and the sense of maybe rights of children would in some way not be seen as being equal to the rights of adults. Maybe that is not correct, but in a general sense that children didn’t have the same standing.
The evidence heard in respect of this Institution focused mainly on sexual abuse, and Br O’Shea was not questioned in detail about the Congregation’s policy with regard to corporal punishment. It is clear from his evidence that the authoritarian atmosphere in Lota was sufficient to prevent children from speaking up about sexual abuse perpetrated by staff. It would also appear from Br O’Shea’s evidence, and from the evidence of witnesses, that corporal punishment was an accepted method of ensuring obedience and control. It would not be credible for a Brother to carry a stick about with him if he never used it.
In 1964, the Visitor singled out Br Hugues for his ‘efficiency, self-sacrifice, kindness to all and devotedness to duty ...’.
Br John O’Shea, leader of the region that incorporates both Britain and Ireland, gave an account of how sexual abuse emerged as a serious issue for the Congregation. He told the Committee: I suppose it became a very significant issue in 1995, at late 1995 we were informed that somebody had gone to the Garda Station and had made allegations that they had been abused during that time.
In the written statement prepared by Br John O’Shea for the Emergence Hearings and received by the Commission on 23rd June 2004, he wrote: Prior to 1995, there were a few isolated allegations of abuse which were dealt with as deemed appropriate at the time. However, it was not until late 1995 that there was an awareness of more widespread abuse or the damage it had caused.
Complaints against Brothers were either not written down at all or were in codified language designed to obscure the nature of the offence. They were dealt with, said Br O’Shea, ‘in sort of a hushed way’. Despite this fact, enough records have survived to allow an examination of Br O’Shea’s claim that prior to 1995 there were ‘a few isolated allegations of abuse’, and no ‘awareness of more widespread abuse’. The convicted sexual abusers: Br Guthrie
Br John O’Shea, outlined in the statement prepared for the Emergence Hearings, held in June/July of 2004, the reasons why the Brothers of Charity have issued apologies in respect of child abuse: When allegations of abuse by two named Bothers were first brought to our attention in December, 1995, the two named Brothers confirmed that they had been involved in the sexual abuse of children in our care. The two named Brothers later admitted in court that they were guilty of perpetrating sexual abuse on children in our care and received custodial sentences in respect of this abuse.
The difficulty with Br O’Shea’s statement is that December 1995 was not the first time the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity had become aware of sexual abuse perpetrated by Br Guthrie.
Br O’Shea in his Opening Statement, made two assertions about sexual abuse prior to 1995: Prior to 1995, there were a few isolated allegations of abuse which were dealt with as deemed appropriate at the time. However, it was not until late 1995 that there was an awareness of more widespread abuse or the damage it had caused.
For example, Br John O’Shea, Regional Leader for Ireland and Britain, wrote on 19th July 2004 to the Western Health Board inquiry as follows: As I understand it Brother Dieter was moved from Holy Family School Renmore to Waterford in 1970 as a result of an anonymous phone call to the Provincial at the time Brother Baldwin. It seems to me that there was no follow-up on this incident between 1970 and the emergence of allegations in 1995 and the following years. Brother Kurt, RIP was the Superior in the Holy Family School at that time and my speculation would be that knowledge of the reason for this move could well be confined to Brother Kurt, R.I.P. and Brother Baldwin. I would consider it unlikely that there was any awareness in [the UK], either inside or outside the Congregation, of the reason why Brother Dieter was moved from Holy Family School between 1970 and 1995. Given the above, there was no consideration given to carrying out a risk assessment in relation to Brother Dieter’s teaching between 1971 and 1989. Likewise, there was no consideration given to withdrawing him from his teaching duties/contact with children. Neither was there any consideration given to notifying the UK Police, the Gardaí or the relevant Health Authorities.