Mr Garnier was convicted of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy from Ferryhouse Industrial School on a number of dates in the mid-1970s.
Mr Garnier lived and worked in Clonmel and was a voluntary worker in the School for many years. He had free access everywhere in the Institution, even in the dormitories when the boys were going to bed and afterwards. He had particular contact with ‘C’ Group, which was managed by Br Leone, who was a friend of his. Another man from Clonmel, named Mr Tablis,24 had similar access on the basis of his friendship with Fr Lucio, the Resident Manager.
Fr Stefano arrived in the mid-1970s. He said that Mr Garnier was someone who had an involvement with Ferryhouse for many years and that his access was in two main areas. On Sunday nights, he used to come and play cards with the boys ‘and he would go up along to the dormitory with them, it would be mainly the senior dormitory, from what I recollect’. He never heard anyone make a complaint about Mr Garnier and did not at the time think that there was anything inappropriate in his having access to dormitories. He ‘never had any reason to suspect anything wrong was going on’. He said local community helpers were needed and appreciated in Ferryhouse, and the two men were accepted in that context. They had a long history of involvement in the School ‘probably because there were so few people to do anything’. Outsiders were involved in the sports day and in fundraising, and people were in and out all the time. He said that it could happen that the Brother in charge of the senior dormitory would be required to drive a distance of some miles to collect a boy who had absconded, for example. In such circumstances, he thought it was likely that Mr Garnier would have volunteered to stay on. Fr Stefano accepted that he was perhaps somewhat naïve, in not being uncomfortable about the access that Mr Garnier was permitted. He suggested that, if there was an error of judgement or a lack of alertness, it should be seen against a background of involvement by the local people in helping Ferryhouse.
There is an enormous difference between involvement by the community in the running of the Institution, and allowing outsiders to enter the boys’ dormitories and to spend time there on a frequent basis. Clearly, the Brother in charge of the dormitory, Br Leone, should not have permitted the access, but he happened to be the contact in the School on whom Mr Garnier relied, and who introduced him to the School in the first place.
Mr Garnier told the Gardaí how his contact with Ferryhouse began: I know Br Leone for years. A lot of the boys went to the technical school. That is boys from Ferryhouse School. I saw Br Leone bringing them to school and I got chatting to them. That’s how it started roughly 28 years ago.
Mr Garnier confirmed to the Gardaí the level of his involvement with the School. He visited regularly about once a week. He would play table tennis with the boys, and would play cards; he worked at the School sports day and helped with the pantomimes and the Strawberry Fair. In addition, he said: I’d take some boys out for drives. About four or five boys at a time. I had my own car. We went to Youghal once and the steam rally in Upton.
He mostly remembered the boys in the older group in Br Leone’s care who were about 14 or 16 years old. He was with the seniors more than the juniors but he had contact with all the groups. He bought sweets and gifts for the boys. Mr Garnier denied allegations made by boys that he had fondled and masturbated them, but he did admit having had sexual contact with two boys in Ferryhouse. The first one happened at a time when Br Leone was in charge of the group, and Fr Lucio was the Resident Manager. The incident happened in the ‘C’ Group dormitory. He described how he had kissed the boy and sexually abused him.
A witness resident in Ferryhouse in 1970s alleged in his evidence to the Committee that Mr Garnier sexually abused him. Mr Garnier was not represented at the hearing. The witness said that Mr Garnier was a friend of Br Leone and that he would visit the School regularly. He spent a lot of time in the junior dormitory and only left when the lights were turned off: He used to come into the school and he would be up in the juniors, upstairs with the juniors. He would be buying sweets, he would buy torches and he would buy different things for you.
Mr Tablis was another outsider who worked in Clonmel and who had easy access to the boys in Ferryhouse. He does not seem to have had quite the same access to the dormitories as Mr Garnier had, but there are allegations against him in respect of sexual impropriety. Mr Tablis was a friend of Fr Lucio, the Resident Manager before Fr Stefano. Fr Ricardo described the situation as he recalled it: Mr Tablis , to my understanding, again was involved with [local club] and they used to bring the boys to ... a daily outing, where they would collect them in the cars and bring them to ... Mr Tablis would call alright, but I think he was a friend of Fr Lucio’s, he got to know the boys, but I think it was more got to do with the ... He wouldn’t be playing cards so much, I wouldn’t recall him being up in through the school generally.