AN investigation has begun into allegations of child sexual and physical abuse against four Christian Brothers who were based at the former industrial school at Letterfrack, Co Galway.
It follows 23 complaints by former residents at St Joseph's Industrial School in Salthill, Galway, of sexual and physical abuse at the facility which was also run by Christian Brothers, the Garda confirmed yesterday.
"The allegations relate to the late 1960s and early 1970s and so far two former pupils have made statements to the Garda complaining of being abused by Christian Brothers. At this point we are only at an early stage of our investigations," said a senior Garda spokesman at Mill Street station in Galway. One of the former pupils had complained of sexual and physical abuse between 1967 and 1969 while another, it is understood, alleged physical abuse between 1972 and 1974 at the Letterfrack school, which was based in northwest Connemara up to the late 1970s.
The Garda have confirmed that four brothers were named in the allegations. The spokesman added that attempts were being made to track down other former pupils who may also have been subjected to either sexual or physical abuse. Many are now living abroad. Gardai have yet to contact the brothers at the centre of the Letterfrack investigation and could not confirm yesterday if any of them were involved in the St Joseph's inquiry.
Many of those who lived at St Joseph's in Salthill spent a number of years at Letterfrack. The latter catered for boys between six and 16 who were orphaned, abandoned, came from broken homes or where the State ruled a parent or parents were unfit to raise children. It also catered for young offenders. The former school building is now being used by community groups. Part of the property is used by University College, Galway for woodturning and cabinet making courses.
The Garda spokesman added that they expected to take further statements from former pupils, residents and staff at the Letterfrack school.
Meanwhile, a decision on whether to bring charges against four brothers who were based at St Joseph's - two of whom have left the order - and are named in statements by former residents is expected from the Director of Public Prosecutions within weeks. The Irish Times understands that over the past week more former pupils at St Joseph's have contacted the Garda to make statements about being abused.
The school in Lower Salthill was demolished this week to make way for housing development.
© The Irish Times - Friday, March 29, 1996