Email Us My Blog



Christian Brothers stole my childhood, they were monsters, their so-called apology means nothing.

The Mirror (UK), 6 April 1998 by Leslie Neil

A VICTIM of the Christian Brothers' reign of terror broke a 40- year silence yesterday to brand the order's apology a "hollow sham".

Father-of-three Andrew Baker spent five years in the Brothers' harsh boarding regimes at Artane in Dublin and Letterfrack in Galway, where he suffered brutal violence and sexual abuse.

"The Christian Brothers stole my childhood, they were monsters," the 51 year-old Dubliner claimed. "I spent five years with them and I am still dealing with it now 40 years later.

"Their so-called apology means nothing to me. All it has done is stir up these feelings of anger and hatred that I still have for them.

"What kind of apology is not signed by anyone and just gives a post office box number? Who are they hiding?

"Why won't someone take responsibility for what happened to me and countless others. I want them to recognise what they did and I want someone to be accountable.

"I don't want any money from them. All I want is a day in court where I can tell them what they have done to me and get rid of all these feelings. I will be writing to the Minister of Justice to ask him for that."

Andrew was put in the care of the Christian Brothers in 1956 for the offence of playing truant from school. He was nine years old.

He was sent to the Artane Industrial school in Dublin for two years. He spent another three at Letterfrack after being arrested for sitting on the back of a parked motorcycle in Dublin.

It was a five-year nightmare from which Andrew is still trying to recover. Since he left the Brothers' care in 1961 he has been in and out of borstals and prisons.

He has also battled alcohol and heroin addiction as part of an uphill battle to come to terms with his past.

His trauma has dominated his entire life and he keeps a minutely-documented dossier of the abuse he endured and the feelings it still provokes to this day.

"Forty years later and I am still asking myself 'Why me?'" he said. "We were just boys but they beat us like men.

"On one occasion I was leathered over the head and it split my head right open. It also split the leather and these thrupenny bit coins that were stitched into it fell out on the floor.

"That was just one example of the violence, but that was commonplace. Everyone suffered from that except for the Brothers' pets.

"They were always very young and cherubic looking, and they were orphans. I wasn't an orphan. You thanked God that you weren't an orphan."

A tearful Andrew went on to relive the sex-abuse terror that stalked the corridors, toilets and dormitories of Letterfrack.

"The physical violence in a sexual way was much, much worse than the beatings," he said. "At night if you went to the toilet they would invariably be waiting there.

"There were two Brothers I remember in particular. There was rape and sexual abuse of an oral nature which I suffered myself as did many others. People were so afraid to go to the toilet that they would often soil their beds.

"I should say that there were some good Brothers. Some of them were very kind men, but others were absolute monsters.

"And to me the ones who stood by were no better than the people who turned a blind eye when Hitler was gassing the Jews. Did they not know? Of course they did. They must have.

"After I was abused in Artane I also told a priest in our parish in Finglas. He recommended I go to Letterfrack.

"All of these people in authority knew what monsters they were creating and did nothing to stop it. To this day I love Ireland but I hate the authorities with every breath in my body."

The legacy the Christian Brothers left Andrew with was one of nightmares and drug abuse.

"I don't drink or take drugs now but I am an alcoholic. I was also a heroin addict in the 80s until I got myself off it and rebuilt my life. I took a job as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital in London," he added.

Andrew, originally from the Summerhill area of Dublin, is now married with three daughters and living in the Holloway area of London.

"I found I have a great empathy with mental patients, particularly with the elderly with whom I worked.

"I don't want to make excuses for my life but none of my family were ever in any trouble and I caused them so much hurt because I just wanted to hurt someone for what happened to me.

"When I saw this apology in the papers I wanted to go down to the Irish Embassy in London with a placard that said: 'My name is Andrew Baker. I am an alcoholic. I was a thief, a liar and a cheat - and I was in the care of the (Christian) Brothers for nearly six years.' I would have put Christian in brackets.

"But that would have got my family too involved so I tried to ring their helpline. The operator told me it was permanently engaged. He said there was probably half a million people like me trying to get through.

"But I need to talk to someone to let them know. I want them to know what they did. And a post office box number to do that is just an insult."