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.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ferryhouse Rape during Papal Visit

Rape of boy during papal visit recalled - Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse: The investigation committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was told yesterday that a boy, prevented from attending Pope John Paul's Mass in Limerick in September 1979, was raped by the brother left in charge of him.

Father Patrick Pierce, manager in 1975-91 of St Joseph's Industrial School, Ferryhouse, Co Tipperary, told the committee the boy had not been allowed accompany his colleagues to the Pope's Mass as punishment for absconding. The brother who raped him had been a prefect at the school and volunteered to stay back with the boy.

Father Pierce, who was recalling that in November 1979 he first learned about the abuse of boys at St Joseph's by "Brother X", became upset while giving his evidence. "Little did we know we were living with an abuser," he said, and "in the very unit \ younger children would be better protected."

He recalled how that night he had left some staff home, as was the practice, when he decided to drive around to see whether there might be any sign of two boys who had absconded that day. They were from the south, and he headed in that direction. Six or seven miles farther on he found them. They had thumbed him for a lift.

They got in the car. He asked why they had run away. The boy in the front seat said they had been beaten up, and Father Pierce responded along the lines of "Pull the other one". He noticed the front-seat boy went silent, then broke down "and said Brother X was at him".

Father Pierce recalled "immediate impact". There was silence until they got back to the school. He took the boy to his office, cautioned him as to the seriousness of what he was saying, and they talked more. He suggested to Father Pierce that another boy could back up what he said.

The second boy was brought down from a dormitory. It was he who had been raped by Brother X while the rest attended the Pope's Mass in Limerick. Both boys "unfolded a most horrific story of what had been happening to them". They agreed to face X with their allegations.

Father Pierce interviewed X the next day. He denied the allegations at first, then, when told the boys were willing to confront him, backed down.

He was confined to his quarters and removed from the school the next day. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Dublin. Three weeks later he was returned to his own home and later was dismissed from the Rosminian congregation.

The Rosminians' Irish provincial at the time was closely involved in all decisions concerning the case. Father Pierce reported it to the Department of Education, informed X's local parish of what had occurred, as well as a judge at the Children's Court in Dublin which X had been known to attend regularly prior to his joining the Rosminians.

GardaĆ­ were not told then. "I have to honestly say I didn't know about reporting to the gardaĆ­. I probably should have," Father Pierce said.

However, when the Conference of Religious of Ireland issued guidelines on dealing with sex abuse cases in the early 1990s, he then reported the case to a Garda superintendent in Clonmel. X was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to nine years' imprisonment, three suspended.

Father Pierce recalled that, although one of the boys said in court he had forgiven X, he (Father Pierce) still found this difficult. He had visited others in the prison where X is detained, "but I have never been able to bring myself to see him".

© The Irish Times

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