In 1969, Sr Carina3 wrote to the Department, seeking permission to allow five senior boys to receive secondary education in a nearby secondary school. The Department did not accede to this request.
His findings were so serious that it is necessary to quote the report extensively: I visited Cappoquin, St Michael’s Convent ... and observed the following points which I discussed with the Resident Manager, [Sr Carina] as I have done on previous visits of mine to Cappoquin. At the latter part of my visit [the child psychiatrist] arrived at St Michael’s. (1)The old Convent is in a very serious situation as to the ability to continue to provide Residential Child Care. (2)There are neither in my opinion the resources nor the facilities to provide for the basic needs of children listed as per attached. (3)At present there is only one group of children, principally boys, but including two girls, who are nice children but are having bad experiences in the group. That statement is a personal observation and staff confidential views. (4)The older boys who should have been discharged now are bullying the younger children, both physically and emotionally. I have consistently advised [Sr Carina] to discharge these boys and to the full nature of the problems that are happening within the precincts of the Convent. This has been confirmed to me by staff that “bullying” is taking place. There are also a cross-section of problems happening in the Town of Cappoquin that without doubt are the result of institutionalisation and negative Child Care attitudes. (5)Problems are now being encountered by younger boys who clearly wish to follow the patterns of their peers, and subsequently [Sr Carina] and [the child psychiatrist] wish to transfer these children ... The inappropriate transferring of children has to cease at Cappoquin from St Michael’s. (6)There is a grave danger that the attitudes of the Nuns at St Michael’s will perpetrate into the new Group Homes. In fact it has done so to some degree where I know that children are sent to bed for some problem by Lay Staff and ignored. Modern Child Care practice contains ample sanctions, if skilfully and professionally applied but the above practice is both detrimental and damaging to any child and there is absolutely no reason for the above practice. (7)There is a grave danger that this Residential Child Care Centre may be subjected to a Press campaign. (8)The Rev. Mother and myself have discussed these issues, she is extremely concerned. (9)Can we request that [Sr Carina] be relieved of her post and Sister [Isabella]5 who works at St Michael’s. (10)[The child psychiatrist] has a tremendous influence at St Michael’s. As he is no longer attached to the ... Health Board I suggest that St Michael’s use the appropriate Psychiatrist on the Health Board. (11)Money is being mis-appropriated for the use of past pupils who do not make any contributions to their care and the Department of Education does not pay any Capitation, as they are over-age. (12)If the Group size was reduced drastically at St Michael’s to 1 of 12 children plus 2 Lay Staff and 1 Nun as Resident Manager one should see a marked improvement in overall care attitudes. (13)I am going back on the 26th / 27th July to review the whole of the committed children at St Michael’s and have staff meetings with all the Nuns and the Lay Staff together with the Rev. Mother. (14)We are in the area of malfunctioning and nearing neglect totally of the children’s emotional needs, and we consequently have to scrutinise the future of St Michael’s very closely or the Department could be seen to be colluding with St Michael’s Child Care practice.
He named two nuns, Sr Carina and Sr Lorenza,21 who he said were particularly severe. In the case of Sr Lorenza, he said that, although she could be nice: ... she could get very contrary. She could be a nice nun. I suppose she could be an understanding nun, we’ll say. But yet if she lost the cool she lost the cool, she wouldn’t spare you any more than Sr Carina would spare you.
A witness, who was admitted to Cappoquin at four years of age in the late 1950s, described a severe beating he received from the Resident Manager.22 He had been called into her office and handed a letter sent to him by his mother. Sr Carina asked him to read it, but he could not read: I remember then I got a beating over that. I remember she beat me so much I ended up down at the wall, at the end of the wall, she had beat me that much. Then at the end of it all she just got the letter and she said "seen as you can’t read the letter it is no good to you" and she tore it up.
The witness remembered one nun in Cappoquin with particular fondness: The reason I have always loved Sr Adriana is one particular incident involving again Sr Carina, the time when we went to the toilet, you went to the toilet at certain times, right ... So you were lined up and you were told when to go into the toilet, when it was your turn, in you go, the nun would tell you. It came to me anyway and I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to, you know what I mean. So with that I was brought back into the office. I must have been about eight, nine at the time, eight at the time. I was brought back into the office. Again I got beaten. I was stripped and put on the, what do you call it, the office desk, she used have a big desk she used have all her things on it. I got put on that, and I was beaten. But when I woke up on that I didn’t wake up on the desk, I woke up in the bed. The first thing I see when I woke up was Sr Adriana. She had one hand on my forehead and she was holding her beads with the other hand. That’s a picture I never forgot and I never will. Because that brought home to me, in later years as I got older, the difference. That there was good and bad. And that’s why I have never blamed the nuns or anyone else for what happened to me. I have never even blamed the Christian Brothers, because that particular incident always stayed in my mind.
Another complainant spoke about a particular incident with Sr Carina: I remember Sr Carina bringing me in between – down on the nun’s side of the School, like, and when I looked at this woman I could see fire in her eyes, like, and I knew what I was expecting from her and I couldn’t prevent it and she caught me and she put me over her knee and she literally whipped the backside off me with her whole hand. She said to me, "I am going to leather you ... until I put blisters on your backside", and she meant it what she said, like. I remember after that I couldn’t sit down. I looked at her hand and her hand was sore red from swinging it. The ring that she was wearing you could see the white of the band, that will just tell you how red her hand was from lashing me, like. She was a good woman herself with the cane, like, you know ... Once or twice that happened to me. Bed-wetting
Another complainant, who made allegations against a man he was fostered out to from Cappoquin, went even further: You know, if you wanted to find good people Sr Isabella, Sr Carina and Sr Serafina24 were three walking saints. It is just the staff I didn’t like.
Another nun, Sr Clarice, described the circumstances of Mr Restin’s departure. At the time, she was the teaching principal of the girls’ primary school in Cappoquin and a former Superior of the convent. She had contact with the Industrial School because some of the children attended the primary school and she also helped out at weekends and holiday periods. She remembered Mr Restin as a kind of supervisor in the institution. He was an assistant leader in the Scouts. One day a scout leader warned her about him saying ‘Sr Clarice, go home to Sr Carina and tell her to try and get rid of Mr Restin and do that soon’.
Sr Violetta28 or Sr Carina selected the boys who were to spend the weekend. Typically, they would be picked up at the School by one of the guests staying in the Abbey, as Br Cosimo did not drive at the time. They would have their tea, play table tennis or board games, and then retire to bed at around 8.30 pm. The boys usually came in the winter months, when the guesthouse was less busy. Br Cosimo would take them for long walks, and he acquired toys and a bicycle for them. None of the other monks had any involvement with the children, as it was considered to be his project and therefore was his responsibility.
Sr Viviana was in charge of the group home known as Group Home B and said that she had had no concerns about Br Cosimo and the children until the issue was raised in public in 1996. In 1995 she had been interviewed by Sr Isabella in relation to the recollections of her time in Cappoquin. Sr Isabella kept notes of her interview and in those notes a suggestion was made that Sr Viviana had in fact some concerns about Br Cosimo at the time, enough concern to warrant her interviewing the boys and visiting Melleray Abbey to speak with a senior member of the community with whom she was friendly. When she was reminded about this she gave a vague account of what transpired. It appears that some time in 1974, one or more of the lay staff in the group home mentioned to her that the children were spending a bit of time with Br Cosimo and wondered if this was okay. She was satisfied that Sr Violetta and Sr Carina were happy but she agreed that the lay staff were uneasy about the boys going out. She said that when the concerns of the lay staff were expressed she had no sense of this having anything to do with sex. She interviewed the boys and talked about it and she said she personally felt there was nothing in it. The senior member of the community was a friend of hers and she used to talk to him. She remembered going to see him and expressing a concern that Br Cosimo was taking the boys and asked him what did he think. He told her that Br Cosimo was a ‘man’s man’ and she read nothing more into that other than that he was not very friendly with women. She said she thought no more about it. She does not recall when in 1974 this happened and had no recollection if there was any connection between her conversation and the visits of the boys being brought to an end in February 1975.