A witness who was resident from the late 1940s to the early 1950s described a severe beating he received. He worked in the generator room, helping the lay operator. One of his jobs was to go down to the generator room in the early hours to divert the electrical energy created by the turbine to the battery. The night watchman used to wake him for this purpose but on this occasion he was late in doing so, as a result of which the electricity was not diverted at the right time. The Brother in charge of the generator discovered the situation and punished the boy, who did not blame the night watchman because he did not want to get him into trouble. The Brother gave him a severe beating with a stick. When the lay operator saw the boy’s condition after the beating he brought him up to the Manager in the monastery and told him that if it ever happened again he would go to the Gardaí: He said first of all he’d inform the local police and then he’d get the cruelty man in if it ever happened again. It never happened again from Br Lafayette35 ... He said he would see to it, he’d take it in hand.
In 1945 the Visitor remarked that the 10 Brothers in the monastery were catered for by two female cooks, whilst the boys, who numbered upwards of 165, were catered for by ‘an old man in the place of Br Lafayette who should be in the kitchen’ – Br Lafayette was ill for most of that year.
Br Lafayette was in charge of the refectory for a period of nine years during the 1950s and 1960s. One Visitation Report referred to him as being ‘somewhat independent and headstrong and somewhat difficult to manage at times’.14 Another Visitation Report criticised his inclination to interfere in charges other than his own, particularly on the farm.
Br Aribert felt that Br Lafayette was ‘strict ... harsh maybe on occasions’ and ‘ran a very tight ship’. He recalled a day when he was given the task of supervising the boys during a meal. He was ‘nearly terrified going out there’, but a boy whom he described as Br Lafayette’s ‘right-hand man’ made him ‘completely redundant’ and ran the whole show. He could not say, however, whether this was due to Br Lafayette’s good organisational skills or an element of fear. However, he did recall one particular act of kindness, when Br Lafayette procured apples and biscuits for the boys.
A second Brother, Br Chapin, said he was a ‘stickler for a job’ and could have given ‘a few clatters if he found that the job wasn’t done’. Br Chapin recalled the boys talking about Br Lafayette occasionally. He said he did not hear the other Brothers speak about him, but put that down to the fact that Br Lafayette worked in the refectory where the other Brothers would rarely go. This Brother stated that he knew that, if Br Lafayette gave a job to the boys to do, they did it or else they paid for it.
Br Bevis, when asked whether Br Lafayette was excessively severe towards the boys, said that he did not know, as he was not there when he punished the boys. One boy did, however, tell him he was ‘punished severely’ by Br Lafayette.
A number of former residents gave evidence about Br Lafayette.
By way of an example, he explained that he had a job of bringing dinner to sick boys. One boy had refused his food and it was returned uneaten to Br Lafayette in the kitchen. When handing over the dinner to Br Lafayette, he told him that the boy ‘wouldn’t be having any dinner’. Later, the Brother called him out of his class and had him repeat what he said about the boy. After tea, Br Lafayette called him aside again, this time put him against the wall and asking him to repeat what he had said earlier. Once again, he repeated that the boy ‘won’t be having any dinner’. Br Lafayette then produced the leather and gave him six hard slaps on the hands. Again, Br Lafayette asked him to repeat the message, and he was given six more hard slaps with the leather.
This cycle continued until, after about 30 slaps, Br Lafayette said to him ‘You left him [the boy] having a fit on the floor, didn’t you?’, to which the boy responded ‘yes’. He was now willing to say ‘anything to stop him from hitting me’. Br Lafayette then ‘fisted’ him in the face. He was left pumping blood, and Br Lafayette told him that that would ‘teach you to tell me lies’. The witness said he still had no idea why he was being punished in this way, but could only presume that the sick boy must have had a fit after he left him. He did not make a complaint about his treatment because, if you complained, you would get into ‘deeper trouble’.
This same former resident told the Investigation Committee that, apart from Br Lafayette and two other Brothers,15 ‘it was a lovely school’. He felt the rest of the Brothers did the best with what they had.
He also stated that Br Lafayette regularly interrogated him and other boys about sex and matters relating to it in his back room. In particular, he was asked to name other boys who were involved in sexual activity: The first time it came on, he asked me, I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. And of course I got six of the best for basically telling lies.
Another former resident said that, because he was working in the kitchen and was under Br Lafayette’s care, he was protected from beatings from other Brothers. On one occasion, Br Lafayette intervened to stop a severe beating from Br Bevis. He said that Br Lafayette went ‘out of his way to ensure that nobody else laid a finger on me’. While Br Lafayette was in Tralee, ‘nobody really beat me up or anything at all like that. But after he left then there were threats coming in from all sides’. He added that Br Lafayette had the reputation for being the ‘hardest Brother’ in the school. ‘If he said “Jump”, you said “How high?”.’
Br Lafayette had spent two periods in Letterfrack in the 1940s and 1950s and also served in Artane. He transferred from Tralee to Glin in the 1960s.
This controversy first began to emerge in 1995, when former pupils made allegations in the media that Robert Moore had received a severe beating from Br Lafayette in the refectory for refusing to eat his food, and that he had died some days later in hospital.
He told the Investigation Committee that he did not recall any discussion at the time about Robert Moore being beaten by Br Lafayette, the Brother in charge of the refectory, and he did not know at the time that this beating had happened.