Dr McCabe continued to question the child and asked her whether anyone had pulled down her knickers. She said her mother had done it once to punish her, and then she said Mr Jacobs had done it to her. The girl then gave Dr McCabe a detailed description of what ensued, the particulars of which need not be included in this report. It is sufficient to say that the story told by the child showed that the behaviour of the employee was not a casual or chance encounter, but was the result of careful preparation by a calculating child abuser. The innocence of the child in sexual matters was apparent from her account.
Dr McCabe then asked the Resident Manager about Mr Jacobs and was told that he was ‘a marvellous man and the mainstay of the Institution’, who had been employed by ‘Four Reverend Mothers’ over a period of 30 years. He was a married man with a large family.
A different account appeared in a statement prepared by the Sister in question, Sr Stella, which was taken after Dr McCabe’s investigations. She said that she observed a child in tears after coming from the School where Mr Jacobs had given her sweets. According to this account, the Sister asked the child whether anything had happened in the School, and the child said no, that she had only gone in to Mr Jacobs for sweets.
Sr Tova then took up the story. She said that, as soon as she discovered the child’s sexual history, she arranged for two Sisters to accompany her to Limerick, and wrote to the Department for sanction for that transfer, and for the transfer of an older girl to St Anne’s, Kilmacud. This precipitated Dr McCabe’s investigation and the revelations about Mr Jacobs, which she confirmed came as a great shock, as he had been working in the School for 30 years and ‘no-one had ever suspected him’.
The Mother General and the Reverend Mother informed the meeting that they were satisfied that, apart from the Jacobs affair, things were not as bad as originally thought. The matter had been brought under control by the removal of certain girls, diligence on the part of the Sisters, and the fact that, as a result of the group system, the ‘evil had not extended beyond a single group’. They also said that ‘the affair in which XX had been concerned with Mr Jacobs had occurred in the summer of 1953 and not, as had first been thought, during last summer’.
In a complete contradiction of what had been reported by Dr McCabe, the Sisters then said that Sr Stella had not been informed that relations with Mr Jacobs ‘had gone beyond him giving her sweets’. The Sisters accepted that Sr Stella should have had her suspicions aroused when she discovered the young girl in tears so soon after being given sweets by Mr Jacobs.
The meeting was then joined by the local parish priest, Fr Curran.7 He had read Dr McCabe’s report. He attempted to make light of what had happened, asserting that ‘the happenings concerned were such as frequently occur in girls’ schools throughout the country’. The account of the meeting stated: We did not accept this view, and on Dr McCabe’s pointing out that a peculiar vicious aspect of Jacobs depravity was that he had entered upon his misdeeds with malice aforethought, Fr Curran admitted the heinousness of Jacobs offences, but continued to make light of the misconduct of the girls amongst themselves. It had become evident that Fr Curran’s stand was to prevail upon the Department not to take steps that would bring Jacobs into Court. On the Assistant Secretary enquiring further in this regard, Fr Curran stated plainly that he would appeal to the Dept not to take any measures with regard to Jacobs.
He appealed to the Department on the grounds that, although Jacobs deserved penal servitude, the court case would bring the convent into great disrepute, and the children involved would have to give evidence, and this would do them immense harm. Mr Jacobs had been dismissed immediately following Dr McCabe’s disclosure: The Reverend Mother here confirmed that she had paid Jacobs and dismissed him, on that day, but without giving him any reason ... Jacobs had, she said, received his dismissal in silence.
When the suggestion was made by the Department that the Bishop should be informed, Fr Curran was strongly opposed to this move, as his Lordship was old and deaf and the affair would upset him. He agreed to accept full responsibility for this decision, should the Bishop ever learn of the affair. He undertook also to interview Mr Jacobs and intimate to him that he was not yet out of the woods, and that everything would depend on his future conduct. He said he would, ‘Put the fear of God into Jacobs’.
The matter of the children abused by Mr Jacobs was not addressed by that meeting. The Resident Manager continued to correspond with the Department about the four girls who had been identified as having been abused by Jacobs, in order to have them transferred from the School, in the interests of the other children. She wrote two days after the meeting: The other three children ... have still fresh in their memory the experience they had with Mr Jacobs in 1953. They also know about each other’s contact with him, which shows they must have and probably still are discussing this matter among themselves.
It does not appear from the records that the permission was granted, as three of their names appear seven months later in a report to the Chief Inspector by Dr McCabe dated 22nd June 1955. The Reverend Mother General had asked Dr McCabe to meet her in Milltown in Dublin, at the headquarters of the Congregation in Ireland, to discuss the situation in Kilkenny where, once again, she was concerned about the behaviour of six of the girls. These six girls were aged between 9 and 13, and two of them had revealed to Dr McCabe the previous November that they had been sexually abused by Mr Jacobs. They were now seen as a corrupting influence on the rest of the children, particularly their own siblings in the School. The Reverend Mother told Dr McCabe that she was concerned that the six girls were continuing to corrupt the little ones, by giving them bad example at every opportunity. Dr McCabe was surprised as to how this could be the case if the children were contained in one group. She was informed the problem arose at recreation time when the groups mixed. Dr McCabe’s report was summarised in the Department of Education submission: The Rev. Mother claimed that these children were “misbehaving themselves with each other and with the small children”. They were, she said, “giving bad example” ... They were said to have taken girls from another group, brought them up into the fields and taught them “wrong in the grass”. When the Sister-in Charge inquired into their behaviour, one of them remarked, “It was no harm”. Mr Jacobs, the painter dismissed by the school the year before, had said that he was “an old man and it was no harm” ... Much of the “bad behaviour” came to light as some of the girls were preparing for their first Holy Communion and though, when questioned, there were many “denials”, one child told the Rev Mother that [named child] was “doing it constantly”. For her part, the Rev Mother considered 11-year-old [named child] “the most hardened”.
Dr McCabe then visited St Joseph’s to investigate these complaints, and she made a written report on 24th June 1955. She concluded that two children (aged 11 and 13) were the ‘ringleaders’ and that another (aged 13) was ‘a good follower’. The two children mentioned by her had been identified as having been abused by Jacobs in her visit in November 1954; the third child was a sister of the 11-year-old mentioned above.
Another child was mentioned as ‘one of Jacobs unfortunates’ although her name had not appeared in the November 1954 report. Dr McCabe reported: There was another child mentioned [child named](11) but she did not try tricks herself but had been one of Mr Jacobs unfortunates, but on discretely questioning her, I discovered that he had only started on his campaign when he was disturbed!
A witness who was in the School during the 1954 investigation and who was one of the girls transferred to Kilmacud gave evidence. She had not been abused by Jacobs, and it seems that she was sent to Kilmacud because her sister, who had been abused, was going there.
This Submission was prepared in 2006. It did not address the appalling plight of the children who were abused by Mr Jacobs; it did not examine the attitude of the Sisters in seeking to remove the victims to a reformatory; it did not question the integrity of Sr Tova, who gave one account to Dr McCabe about the complaint made to Sr Stella, and a completely different one to the Department officials and the parish priest; it did not acknowledge the damage done to these children by the sexual abuse and its consequences, which included the children being isolated from their friends and removed to reformatories. Far from trying to help these damaged girls, the Sisters chose to dispose of them as bad influences. With their removal, the whole episode was expunged from the history of St Joseph’s.