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 went on to praise the contributions of the three Sisters who had taken charge of the three group homes: The influence of Sisters [Isabella], [Eloisa]8 and [Callida] is to be commended within the group homes. And consequently their direction and evidence of the care staff is meaningful.
An abbreviated version of the same letter was sent to Sr Callida, Resident Manager, with a number of suggestions, including delegation of full responsibility to Sr Isabella during her absences and the holding of regular staff meetings to build up communication.
Although Sr Isabella treated him in the infirmary for the injuries he had received from this beating, she would not believe that they had been inflicted by a staff member.
One nun who came in for special praise was Sr Isabella. When asked what it was about Sr Isabella that singled her out, one witness said: ... What was it that made Sr [Isabella] the best of them? I never actually seen her being violent with anyone. I never seen her being violent with myself. To me, she was a good caring kind of a woman. But done her job. If someone needed chastising – if someone needed chastising she would shout, point her finger. I never actually seen her hitting anyone, or she never hit me.
Another witness said of Sr Isabella: ... there is one nun that I still write to ... Sr Isabella, who was outstanding, and I would have to say that of all the nuns there, she was the one that – she ran the infirmary, I think, if my memory serves me right. But she would have been one that probably exhibited what should have been rather than what was ...
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.
Mr Restin’s evidence was that he did not believe he was asked to leave Passage West, nor did he think Sr Vita knew he had abused boys there. He arranged to move to Cappoquin while he was still working in Passage West. He was vague in his evidence as to how the job arose. He believed that he met Sr Isabella from Cappoquin while he was doing an interview for the childcare course at Waterford Regional Technical College. Cappoquin was nearer to Waterford than Passage West, and would be more convenient if he was doing the course. He believed that he might have told Sr Isabella he was thinking of doing the course, and thought that she suggested that he contact Cappoquin.
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.