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Diarmaid Ferriter and Brother Joseph O'Connor

from "The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000" (2005 edition) by Diarmaid Ferriter, Chapter 6 (1945-1960) pages 513-4

[ Ferriter's witness "Barney" has no credibility, a fact that had been clearly demonstrated several years before the initial publication of "The Transformation of Ireland" in 2004.
Rory Connor ]

'He didn't even have the goodness to bugger you in private'

Tom Sheehan, who spent ten years in industrial schools, from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, did not feel his experiences did him lasting damage, but he was blunt about the acceptance of routine assault.

We always knew that the Brothers could do what they liked. There was no one to stop them. They could kill you, and no one would know. [My emphasis] I remember one Brother punched a boy in the refectory, in front of everyone, and knocked him out cold. ... I got a kicking one night. I was about ten. This brother pulled me out of my bed and punched and kicked me all over the place. The only explanation was that he thought I was playing with myself. But he never really said why. We never saw any sexual abuse. But there was definitely sadism there. Maybe they got pleasure from that. [190]

But others bore their physical and mental scars for the rest of their lives. An inmate at Artane Industrial School, Barney, recounted horrendous experiences of abuse in the 1950s. He remembered not only vicious beatings ('some of the boys were so badly beaten they used to suffer from what they called head staggers,like when boxers got punch drunk'), but also rape and sexual abuse perpetrated by a well known figure in Ireland, Brother Joseph O'Connor, who worked with the Artane Boys Band at the school:

I was in his class once - he taught school as well as the band - and I had said or done something, and he put me out on the line at the edge of the classroom. Then he told me to take off my clothes. And right there in front of the whole class he sat down on on his desk with his foot on the bench where the boys would sit and write, and his other foot on the ground. He opened his cassock and put me across it and put his left hand under my private parts. He was squeezing me and beating the living hell out of my bare backside. He was foaming at the mouth jumping and hopping. He was having a sexual orgasm in front of the whole class of boys. And I wasn't the only boy to be done. It just hurts you to be degraded in such a manner. He didn't even have the goodness to bugger you in private. He was a bastard. And yet he would march around there on parade with the band like he was King Tut. He was evil. He did things to me I couldn't even tell my wife about, they were so shameful. One of the things he'd do when he'd be sexually molesting you was that he'd be trying to choke you as well. He'd be foaming at the mouth during it. Some of the things he did I can't even talk about now. It's too painful. And yet many other suffered the same fate as me, or even worse. Especially the young boys from the convents in the country who had absolutely nobody. If something happened to them, even if they had disappeared, nobody would have missed them. [My emphasis] [191]

[190] Mary Raftery and Eoin O'Sullivan, "Suffer the Little Children: The Inside Story of Ireland's Industrial Schools" (Dublin, 1999) pp 146-8

[191] Raftery and O'Sullivan, "Suffer the Little Children" pp 272-3

The "Barney" mentioned here is presumably the same as the Bernard (Barney) O'Connell whom Mary Raftery cites as the source of her claim that the Christian Brothers were responsible for the death of Patsy Flanagan in 1951. In the above account Barney is AGAIN hinting that boys may have been murdered by the Christian Brothers - and a supposedly respectable historian is prepared to publicise his claims.

The following is an extract from the relevent article on this website:

Three Versions of Boy's Death
Sunday Independent 19 December 1999

I refer to Mr Bernard O'Connell's reply last week in your letters page to my letter relating to the accidental death of a boy in Artane.

Mr O'Connell stands by his story. Which one? He has now presented the public with no fewer than three different versions of this event. In one version the boy fell 40 feet, brushing past Bernard and almost touching him. In the second version the boy was actually thrown over the banister by a Brother and fell a distance of 120 feet. In this account, Mr O'Connell describes external injuries which are totally at variance with the injuries described by the surgeon in the Mater Hospital and by the pathologist. The third version given by Mr O'Connell states that both the boy and a Brother crashed into Bernard, knocking him down several steps.

He finishes his third account by stating that the event took place in the winter of 1956. In fact, the sad accident occurred on February 18, 1951. The factual account of what happened is contained in the Coroner's Report, the contents of which were outlined in my original letter. The Coroner's Report states clearly that no foul play was suspected and that there was adequate supervision in place at the time of the accident.

The records show that no other boy resident of Artane died in the 1950s.

Br M Reynolds, Christian Brothers Provincialate, Cluain Mhuire, North Circular Road, Dublin 7.

In addition there is a section in Rafery's book "Suffer the Little Children" called "Barney's Story, Artane Industrial School, (Christian Brothers), 1949-58" (pages 269-74) that contains another dramatic and equally bogus claim.

“………Brother Joseph O’Connor died about ten years ago. Because of his activities with the Artane Boys Band, he was a well known figure in Ireland. He had been frequently interviewed on RTE television and in 1976 the Trom Agus Eadrom programme, presented by Liam O’Murchu, featured a special tribute to him and his work with the band. One of his victims has described how, when he heard that Brother O’Connor was dying in Dublin’s Mater Hospital, he went down and waited around the hospital until O’Connor was dead. He then went in to take a look at the body. He describes how he had an overwhelming need to actually see him dead. This man tells of being tied to a bed and raped at the age eleven. He testifies to having his head pushed into a drawer, and the drawer closed tight on his neck as he was being raped by Brother O’Connor. In account after account from survivors of Artane, Brother O’Connors name is one of those repeatedly mentioned in the context of sexual abuse. Barney’s experiences at his hands have scarred him for life.”…….

I have dealt with this claim in a separate article on this website. The following is an extract from an article by Breda O’Brien “Child Abuse Book: the facts and fictions” Sunday Business Post 28 Nov. 1999.

“...Similarly with regard to a Brother Joseph O’Connor against whom serious charges were levelled after his death, it is alleged that a man abused by him was so distraught by this abuse that he hung around the Mater Hospital for days when he heard that O’Connor was dying. He then went into the hospital mortuary to lift the sheet to confirm that O’Connor was dead. In reality O'Connor died miles away in a Christian Brother's nursing home in Baldoyle. [my emphasis] Why was the place of death not independently confirmed?...”