Q. Yes. Can we move on to the issue of physical abuse. You are aware, I am sure, that there have been a substantial number of claims by former pupils in Letterfrack of physical abuse?
Q. I think you concede at the bottom of page 87 of your submission that “ assuredly there were lapses by individual brothers“. You says: “The record shows that when a serious breach of standards occurred the matter was reported at the annual visitation when the congregation authority visited the institution.”
Q. Can we just look at some of the complaints about abuse over the period of time. On 11 November 1940 there was a complaint in relation to a brother?
A. Yes, we are on page 90?
Q. Yes, at page 3 of that report.
Q. Apparently Br. X took a serious view of his responsibility as a disciplinarian, but for the reasons stated and other serious reasons I came to the conclusion after long deliberation that he was not a proper person for the position. This was from Br. McGrath?
A. Br. McGrath, yes.
Q. In fact, the other serious reason seems to be referred to on page 2 of that letter where he talks about a brother mentioning especially his visits to the boys ref between 12:00 and 2:00 when the same brother, this brother referred to on page 3, had no class work and, as the other brother put it, his talk sickened me. It’s not very clear what he meant by that, but that seems to throw some light on the reference. Certainly he was complained of as a disciplinarian. Then there was a further note or letter from Br. McGrath saying: “I take the points underlined in my previous letter.” The first item then is punishment. It’s up on the screen there, but it’s probably not very convenient for you?
A. It’s okay.
Q. It says:
“Punishment. A stick is the general instrument used and even with this he goes beyond the rule. I have seen recently a boy with swollen hand, palm and thumb. The steward on [the] farm remarked he was not able to milk for some days. A boy was stripped and beaten in his — he names the brother’s room — he has put boys across his bed in room and even in unbecoming postures to beat them behind. The boys are absolutely afraid to divulge who punished them and won’t even answer questions truthfully through fear of being punished again. Only this week I caught two little fellows crying and I asked them what had happened. They would not tell me. Br. X was in charge at the time.”That suggests that there was a serious situation with that brother?
A. There was.
Q. That boys were afraid to report matters. I know we are going back some time, but I am suggesting it indicates that, would you agree?
A. Yes, what it indicates is that this complaint which happened in 1940 was meted out to some boys and the community considered it as brutal. In fact, the event became known in the village and the community were divided over the incident with many disassociating themselves from the brutal treatment. So the Superior as you say wrote to the Provincial that this wasn’t a proper person for discipline. So in terms of the boys, I would say that the boys were scared of the brother. Certainly he wasn’t a suitable person to be involved with discipline.
Q. Do you think that was the same incident you referred to that gained notoriety in the village —
Q. — or in the town rather. There is another letter from Br. McHugh. Who is Br. McHugh, it’s in April 1945?
A. He was one of the brothers in the community at that time.
Q. To the Br. Consulter. In this he refers to a brother, it’s actually a different brother?
A. It is a different brother, yes.
“It came to my notice that he ill treated the boys with a piece of leather on two days.”He went on in the course of a rather lengthy letter to describe how he punished a boy for carrying on immorally with other boys?
A. He alleged that, yes.
Q. That he alleged that. When this boy was interviewed he said that this had never happened, but suggested that they were so terrified that they confessed to something they hadn’t done. The author of the letter refers to that and I think he even used the word torture on the last page of his letter. He said:
“I believe what made the boys fall in with what he had wished to believe was his leading question, some of which should not be used and the dread of torture. Without being uncharitable he can inflict terrible punishment on children and the boys seem to have an awful dread of his anger.”
A. That was obviously the case. I see the brother writing to the Provincial at the time was aware that this sort of behaviour shouldn’t continue and was complaining about it and saying this brother should not be considered suitable for — at the end of it he says, I don’t have the quotation, but he basically says this person should be removed from Letterfrack. The tragedy is that he was actually sent to another institution. I cannot understand why that has happened.
Q. Yes. There is a letter dated 8 April 1940. This is written by a Br. Maher. Who was Br. Maher?
A. He was a member of the community at the time and he is referring to the incident.
Q. The first of the two incidents?
A. The first of the two incidents, yes. The community were quite upset over the incident and were writing to the authorities about it.
Q. He says in the course of this letter:
“The instruments used and the punishments inflicted are now obsolete, even in criminal establishments, were it not for the frequency of the acts.”
This was pre 1954?
Q. There wouldn’t have been as many boys there for criminal offences at that time; is that right?
Q. A lot of the boys there would be boys who would now be described as boys put into care?
Q. We have a brother talking about instruments used and punishments inflicted which were obsolete even in criminals establishments?
A. Yes. In the 1908 Act I think the instruments may have been a cane, a strap and I have forgotten what the other one is. My understanding is in those instances that it could have been a whip and obviously people were saying that is — I think they may have been allowed in the turn of the century, but anything like that was considered totally against the ethos of the Christian Brothers. Hence the community were very determined to write to the Provincial and to complain about that sort of behaviour.
Q. There is a letter of 4 October 1943 to the Resident Manager from — it appears to be the secretary or an inspector. It says:
“The Minister for Education has before him a report of the Department’s medical inspector and says the school appears to be well conducted. It appears, however, that she found one boy suffering from a black eye and was informed that it was a result of a blow from one of the brothers for talking in class.”The minister looks for an explanation. The explanation appears to be written at the bottom:
“The resident Manager regrets the occurrence indicated and he has no doubt that there shall not be a recurrence of this nature. The brother while remonstrating with his class happened accidentally to strike the boy, who stood behind him, with his elbow in the face.”Does that seem to you like a plausible explanation?
A. It doesn’t.Q. Very good, I will go no further.