Local hellholes exposed in shocking abuse report
In the wake of last week’s publication of the Ryan report on institutional child abuse in Ireland, Mayor of Waterford Jack Walsh has joined his counterparts in Dublin and Cork in opening a book of solidarity with the victims at City Hall.
Cllr Walsh said he had been approached by a number of people who asked him if he could use his office to provide them with a means of publicly registering their abhorrence at the facts uncovered by the commission, and sympathising with those whose lives have been permanently scarred.
“As Mayor, my heart goes out to the victims whose heart-rending stories continue to emerge in the media, one more horrendous than the last,” said the Mayor. “I am happy to provide the people of Waterford with a means to express their solidarity with those who have suffered so much and to express their outrage at what has been done to them.”
The book of solidarity is available for signing during normal office hours at the main reception desk at City Hall on the Mall.
The shocking report contains damning testimony about sordid and violent happenings in institutions including Cappoquin Industrial School in County Waterford and Ferryhouse, Clonmel.
A complainant who was in Ferryhouse in the mid to late ’70s described the now notorious Br Bruno, who worked as a Prefect in Ferryhouse in the latter half of the ’70s, as ‘just bad… he was just evil out and out’.
He told the Committee he first met Bruno – convicted in 1999 of a number of counts of serious sexual assault on four young men when they were boys there – in the mid-’70s at the Rosminian home in Woodstown, County Waterford. This was before Br Bruno had joined the Rosminians, and was visiting Woodstown with his friend, a priest.
Br Bruno gave candid evidence to the commission at a private hearing about his modus operandi, how he was able to escape detection (which surprised even himself), and frightening boys and preventing them from reporting him or talking about him.
He abused so many young boys he could only remember the ones he raped – though the report said, “It would appear that the number of boys who he raped over the period of four years when he was in Ferryhouse was greater than he remembered.”
One of his male victims was later given six years in jail for in turn raping a 14-year-old boy, having previously been convicted of rape in Britain.
There are a number of passages relating to the recidivist deviant’s visits to Woodstown, which served as “fairly basic” ‘holiday centre’ for boys under the Rosminians’ ‘care’ from the late fifties on.
Visiting his friend the priest, it would seem that Br Bruno had checked out the opportunities at Woodstown before even joining the Order.
Br Bruno was by no means the only offender at Ferryhouse, nor was the rampant abuse there solely sexual. In 1962 a County Waterford mother wrote a letter of complaint to the Department of Education about the way in which her son was punished for wetting the bed while in St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse.
The boy who was suffering from kidney problems was forced to have four cold showers on the same night then given nine whips of the leather on each hand the next morning. He ran all the way home “chilled to the bone” on the verge of “a nervous breakdown”.
So-called ‘corporal punishment’ was the norm, but what occurred at Ferryhouse and elsewhere went way beyond the bounds of discipline. It was cruelty, impure and savage.
As far back as 1990, on the occasion of the public opening of a new school in Ferryhouse, the Provincial spoke of the boys who had been damaged by the years they spent there, and of those who looked back in anger and bitterness on their time within its walls.
“The greatest guilt has to be borne by those of us who utilised or condoned or ignored the extreme severity, even brutality which characterised at times the regime at old Ferryhouse,” he said.
Meanwhile, drunken nuns who had “inappropriate relationships” and ignored children experimenting sexually with each other was a feature of “highly dysfunctional management” of St Michael’s Industrial School in Cappoquin in the 1970s and ’80s.
The Sisters of Mercy who ran the school displayed “indifference” to the problems and “allowed a dangerous and neglectful situation to continue”, says the report.
Initially only for boys under 10, the school was identified by the Department of Education as being particularly neglectful of the children in its care in the 1940s when they were “seriously undernourished and underfed”.
The Mother Superior at the time was “arrogant and dismissive” and the manager was “grossly incompetent”, but despite seeing the problems, the Department failed to address them.
The school took in girls from 1970, at a time when the Department was again aware of massive problems. In 1976 an Inspector reported “very grave concern at the extremely low standard of care for the children”.
Again the Department failed to act because the nuns threatened to withdraw their involvement, leaving the Department responsible for the children.
A childcare worker at Cappoquin in the late ’70s, who had previously been employed by the Sisters of Mercy at their industrial school in Passage West, sexually abused boys in both institutions.
He was imprisoned for sexual offences in England in the 1990s and in recent years received prison sentences here, but children who tried to complain about him when they were resident in the schools were not believed.
Problems at Cappoquin continued when the institution was converted to a group home and the first lay manager who arrived in the early-’90s said it was “chaotic”.
“There were staff shortages, impossible rosters and very low morale. Relatives would turn up drunk. There were no boundaries for the children and they had no structure in their daily lives”.
The Sunday Tribune last weekend named former nun Nora Wall (61) – whose 1999 conviction for allegedly raping a girl in St Michael’s was quashed and declared a miscarriage of justice by the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1999 due to the unreliability of the key witness – as the ‘Sister Callida’ identified through a pseudonym in the report.
The Ballymacarbry woman was known as Sr Dominic when she was in charge of the Cappoquin home from the 1970s until the early ’90s, when she was dismissed.
‘Not that easy’
Paddy Doyle, the wheelchair-bound author of ‘The God Squad’, a searingly-candid account of his tormented 10-year stay in the Cappoquin hellhole, was among those victims who tried in vain to gain access to last Thursday’s launch of Mr Justice Sean Ryan’s report which cost €61m and cost 10 years to compile.
“I don’t want to be told I have ‘closure’ now that a report has been published,” said the man who was tortured for a decade from the age of four at the hands of the ironically-named Sisters of Mercy.
At nine, he was sent to hospital and diagnosed with “post-polio”. He was subjected to leg and brain surgery though there was no evidence that anyone was authorised to carry out these procedures.
“We can’t get on with our lives. It’s not that easy,” he said this week. That “there will be no prosecutions arising from any of these hearings and that cannot be” is injustice heaped upon injustice in his view, and that of anyone with a semblance of morality.
“The people who are guilty of crimes should be pursued by law and made answerable. But we are in a situation now where there may well be people guilty of gross abuse who will just walk away from this,” Paddy protests.
Co-ordinator of the campaign group Survivors of Child Abuse, John Kelly, told the media from outside the Conrad Hotel’s closed doors: “There is nothing by way of justice in any means significant in this report, nothing…We were encouraged by this commission and by the former Taoiseach to open our wounds. We did this and they’ve been left gaping open.”
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