Religious Convicted of Child Abuse
Many Concealed by Pseudonyms were Known Paedophiles
Sunday Business Post, May 24, 2009
Many of the offenders who were protected by pseudonyms in the Ryan report into child abuse were well-known paedophiles who have been investigated by the gardaí. However, only a minority of those accused of abuse have been prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy terms in prison for sex offences.
There is no exact record of the proportion of religious order members who have been charged, acquitted or convicted in criminal courts.
Brenda McVeigh, secretary of the Ryan Commission, said that the reporting team had not compiled information on the offenders whom they encountered. The practical difficulties in compiling such data were considerable, state legal sources said, as former brothers or sisters might have left their orders before criminal proceedings occurred.
The 2002 Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report noted that some 3.2 per cent of known sex offenders were religious clerics. It also found that 80 per cent of abused children were abused by those known to them.
Overall, the SAVI report concluded that ‘‘apart from the broad conclusion that perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse are most likely to be known to the child and to be male, there are few other clues to identify likely abusers’’.
The largest cohort of complaints made by witnesses to the Ryan Commission related to physical assault, including a litany of incidents in which children were beaten with implements.
Under the 1908 Children Act , teachers and religious members had statutory protection in their use of corporal punishment until its abolition in 1982, though with the caveat that it should only be used purposefully. The law was unambiguous on the crimes of indecency and buggery.
Most youths sent to reformatories or industrial schools were committed there under court orders arising from the Children Acts or School Attendance.
The same act permitted the sanction of whipping as punishment for a child found guilty of a criminal offence. In 1950, for instance, the population record of both industrial schools showed that there were 5,859children on court committals out of a total population of 6,259.These numbers fell to 1,137 and 1,704 respectively by 1970.
Among the most notorious offenders investigated by the gardaí was Christian Brother Maurice Tobin, who was protected by a pseudonym in the Ryan report. He pleaded guilty to the abuse of 25 boys at Letterfrack over a 15-year period up to 1974. In 2005, he received a 12-year prison sentence, with the last four years of it suspended.
Identified in the Ryan Commission as ‘Brother Dax’, Tobin systematically abused boys from the ages of 11 to 14. At least 100 former residents told gardaí that Tobin had sexually abused them.
The Letterfrack investigation involved a four-year Garda inquiry and also led to the conviction of former Christian Brother John McKenna, of Wood Dale Green, Ballycullen, Dublin. In 2002, he was given a three-year suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to abusing boys at Letterfrack between 1968 and 1970.
Despite a Garda investigation into complaints made after RTE’s 1996 Dear Daughter programme about St Vincent’s Industrial School at Golden bridge in Dublin, no criminal charges were brought, the Sisters of Mercy order has said. The only known sex abuse case referred to a groundsman about whom one of the institution’s female residents complained in 1962. He was prosecuted and dismissed.
Many of those convicted were initially investigated by gardaí in the mid-1990s, as more victims came forward. A former resident at Our Lady of Good Counsel, at Lota, Glanmire, Co Cork, John Barrett, from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, received a IR»28,000 settlement from the Brothers of Charity in 1999 without admission of liability.
Identified in the report as ‘Brother Guthrie’, Brother Ambrose, also known as James Kelly, was a member of the Brothers of Charity at Lota. In 1995, he was convicted and sentenced to three years in jail for sexually abusing Barrett and four other boys at Lota. He was later released following an agreement that he be left at a safe address.
A then 89-year-old retired Brother of Charity was convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing boys in his care over a 40year period at Lota. He was given a three-year suspended jail sentence by Cork Circuit Criminal Court. He had pleaded guilty to 17 sample counts of abusing two boys at the home for boys with learning difficulties.
James Redmond - also known as Brother Eunan - from St Vincent’s Park, Belmont, Waterford, was initially reported in 1939 when caught molesting a boy. He was later caught molesting other boys. It was not until 1984 that he was removed from all contact with boys. Garda Inspector Senan Ryan told the court how Brother Eunan used to go into dormitories at Lota when the boys were asleep and select one child to abuse.
In all, two brothers of the congregation were convicted of crimes of sexual abuse of children resident in Lota between 1952 and 1984.
Gardaí forwarded at least half a dozen individual files relating to suspected abusers at Lota to the Director of Public Prosecutions covering a period since the early 1950s. Other members of the Brothers of Charity were convicted of sexual offences in other services managed by the congregation.
One religious brother at the reformatory in Daingean, Co Offaly, who was accused of sexual abuse over a 17-year period had a previous conviction for sex abuse in Wales, but was never charged here.
At least two religious members of the Rosminian Institute and one layman were convicted of sexual abuse of boys at Saint Joseph’s special needs school at Ferryhouse in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The first of these to be convicted was former brother Sean Barry, from Hillview in Waterford, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to 14 charges of buggery, indecent assault and assault of four boys between 1977 and 1979.