Ireland's Child Care Institutions during the 20th. Century. Fo'T: The most vivid and passionate stories - banished babies, cruel orphanages, old abuses of power - have concerned things that went unnoticed, or at least unarticulated, at the time. News has often had to be redefined, not as the latest sensation but as that which everybody knew all along yet could not say.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Nine-year Garda inquiry

Nine-year Garda inquiry into abuse at boys' home

Two Brothers of Charity who worked at Lota have now been jailed for abuse, writes Barry Roche .

The investigation which led to yesterday's conviction and sentencing of Brother Eunan for sexual abuse at Lota in Cork began in 1995. At that time a 47-year-old man walked into Glanmire Garda station and made a complaint to Insp Senan Ryan that he had been sexually abused while in the care of the Brothers of Charity. Lota was established by the Brothers of Charity in 1938 to care for boys with learning difficulties. More than 600 stayed there. The man's complaint led to a nine-year Garda inquiry, and media reports prompted more former residents to come forward. GardaĆ­ took statements from more than 50 former residents of Lota, which were sent to the DPP. Some 15 of these made it to court, with the first five complaints leading to the conviction of Brother Eunan at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in 1997 when Judge Patrick Moran gave him a four-year jail term with three years suspended.

Two years later, in November 1999, James Kelly (74) - known as Brother Ambrose - was sentenced to 36 years by Judge A.G. Murphy at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. He had pleaded guilty to 18 counts of sexual assault on former Lota residents Mr John Barrett, Mr Alan Carroll and Mr Joe O'Driscoll between 1956 and 1968. Judge Murphy said the abuse inflicted by Brother Ambrose had rendered his victims' lives "little short of a permanent crucifixion", but he fixed a review date of 18 months on his record sentence. However, when that date came around, Brother Ambrose was serving a three-year jail term for sexually assaulting 10 boys at the Brothers of Charity home at Renmore, Galway.

Extensive media coverage of Brother Ambrose's case led to further complaints against the retired brother. In March 2002 Judge Patrick Moran sentenced him to five years in jail with four suspended after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a further five boys in Lota in the 1950s and 1960s. The DPP appealed the leniency of both Judge Murphy's and Judge Moran's sentences of Brother Ambrose, but the Court of Criminal Appeal rejected both appeals and Brother Ambrose was released in November 2002. He had served a total of three years for sexually assaulting eight boys in Lota and 10 boys at Renmore in Co Galway.

Many of the former residents have also taken civil cases against the Brothers of Charity. In July 2002 a 47-year-old former resident at Lota was awarded more than €100,000 in damages for sexual abuse. Following yesterday's conviction of Brother Eunan, the Brothers of Charity issued a statement apologising to his two victims and expressing the hope "that the conclusion of the court process will help to create some healing for the hurt caused in their lives".

However, Mr John Barrett, of the Right of Place Group - he was abused in Lota - expressed disappointment that Brother Eunan had not been jailed. "It was what I expected, but if he had been given even a token sentence it would have been something," he said.

© 2004 The Irish Times