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Christian Brothers Should Not Take a Beating

Added to on June 4, 2006


Sunday Independent, June 4th 2006

Sir - The poor old Christian Brothers (CBS) are really getting it at the moment.

Why, only last week, just as one CB was being bashed for suggesting that some of the claims against them might be a tad less than honest, up jumps Emer O'Kelly (Sunday Independent, May 28) and tells us that she is "a very well-trained journalist" - whatever that is?

Reading on through Ms O'Kelly's offering, the words "Army Deafness" and other such gravy-trains passed through my mind and I later discovered that plain ordinary journalist, Paddy Murray, had covered this particular angle much better than I could.

Now, unlike Ms O'Kelly - who would never have seen a CB in action - I was a CB boy in the early Fifties, and at this time they were at their best. There were more CBs than the Army and Gardai combined, or so it seemed. In any event, they were a law unto themselves and it seemed that nobody wanted to know. By the way, commentators, like Ms O'Kelly, don't always make it clear that the CBs were involved in "normal" day primary and secondary school teaching probably more than their industrial and boarding school gigs.

My experience with the CBs was at day primary and secondary schools. Other than the odd whispering about one-to-onesex education lessons, I never saw or heard any evidence of sexual abuse at any time. I have asked quite a lot of my ex school-mates and not one has disagreedwith me.

However, they were savage in the meting out of corporal punishment. They were out of control in these matters and by any standards their use of an leathar - the dreaded leather - was probably criminal.

The headline over Ms O'Kelly's article last Sunday was: "It's time we punished the Brothers for their crimes". Well, Sir, as a survivor of that regime - and looking back with the benefit of mature years - I am suggesting that when it comes to dishing out punishment, there are oceans between the individuals who sexually abused children and the Christian Brother Congregation, who beat the bejaysus out of most day pupils, including me.

There is another twist to the "day-school beatings" that needs to be clarified. First off, the CBs were of that time, as was corporal punishment. Second, the Catholic Church was untouchable so the CBs knew they were on safe ground.

But, more important, the gardai knew about the beatings, the few lay teachers who worked in the CB schools knew about it.

Pride of place, in my book, must go to the parents - because they knew about it but accepted the savagery because they probably had been subjected to it themselves, and brushed it off with, "Sure you must have done something to deserve it."

Oh, I forgot. The Government knew about it but were happy to turn a blind eye, because the CBs were providing a bloody good education that should have been provided by the State.

RJ Hanly,
Co Wexford