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.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Letterfrack - Physical Abuse of Children by the Christian Brothers



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?

A. Yes.

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."
A. Yes.

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.
A. Yes.

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 --
A. Yes.
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.

Q. "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?
A. Yes.

Q. There wouldn't have been as many boys there for criminal offences at that time; is that right?
A. Yes.

Q. A lot of the boys there would be boys who would now be described as boys put into care?
A. Yes.

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."

Q. Does that seem to you like a plausible explanation?
A. It doesn't.

Q. Very good, I will go no further. Do you know who the Resident Manager would have been at that time?
A. Which year?

Q. That would have been 1943?
A. I do. It would have been Br. Murray.

Q. There is no signature there but it just says Resident Manager. There was a reference, you have mentioned a whip, but there was a mention of a horse whip used in one of the documents?
A. Yes.

Q. Was it known to the Christian Brothers that whips were sometimes used?
A. No. From my understanding the normal way of corporal punishment in a school was done by a strap. That was the normal way that corporal punishment was administered in schools. The idea of a whip would be totally contrary to any recognised practice and hence the outrage when it happened.

Q. Yes. There was I think a protocol of punishments that were entitled to be used and there were directions from the Department of Education; is that right?
A. Yes. If I can just find it here. When dealing with corporal punishment the normal -- it's on page 90 -- section 54 of the Children's Act of 1908. It's quite measured where it talks about forfeiture of rewards and privileges, confinement in a light room or a lighted cell, moderate childish punishment and chastisement with a cane/strap or birch. That was the official permitted levels of punishment of children in the 1908 Act.

Q. Yes.
A. However, what we have described there go beyond that acceptable level of corporal punishment. Indeed I think it would be fair to say that most of the confinement in lighted rooms and chastisement for longer than two days would not be acceptable and was never acceptable to the brothers.

Q. I think that reference to the horse whipping was in May of 1940, it was the visitation report. In fairness it was an internal visitation report that the visiting brothers picked up?
A. It was.

Q. It would appear that some few of the boys were guilty of improper conduct and the Superior commissioned Brs. X and Y to punish them.
A. Yes.

Q. They did so as the boys were returning using a horse whip rather freely?
A. Yes. That's Br. B on page 90.

Q. Yes. It says: "These two other brothers and the teachers witnessed the treatment from a distance and later in the community -- Brother so and so -- when reference was made to the chastisement characterised it as brutal". That's what you are saying?
A. Yes.

Q. The two other brothers mentioned concurred with that description. That was the subject of gossip in the shops and in the villages?
A. Yes.

Q. All of this I suggest would have been totally contrary to the punishment protocol set down by the Department of Education?
A. It would, yes.

Q. If we just take a brief look at some documents. This I think is a circular from the Department of Education that's up on the screen. It says in terms of discipline: "The manager or his deputy shall be authorised to punish the children detained in the school in case of misconduct. All serious misconduct and the punishments inflicted for it shall be entered in a book to be kept for that purpose which shall be laid before the inspector when he visits." That would have been a Punishment Book?
A. Punishment book, yes.

Q. Are there any Punishment Books for Letterfrack?
A. There are no Punishment Books, no.

Q. Why not?
A. My understanding is that they were, but they are no longer available, I don't know why.

Q. Are there many other types of documents missing?
A. No, there is very detailed documentation in Letterfrack, but there is no Punishment Book.

Q. Yes, it might interest you to know this is the second time at a public hearing we have had an institution where they have had a lot of documents but no Punishment Book. You have no idea what happened?
A. I haven't.

Q. Did they exist at one time?
A. My understanding is they did. If my memory serves me correctly when Professor Denis O'Sullivan visited in the late 60's there may have been one there, I am not sure, my memory isn't clear on that. They are not available now.

Q. Yes. The next document I would like you to look at is a circular to managers and teachers of national schools in regard to corporal punishment which is dated October 1956?
A. Yes.

Q. Sorry, it's September 1956. It says in rule 96: "That corporal punishment should be administered only for grave transgression. In no circumstances should corporal punishment be administered for a mere failure at lessons."
A. Yes.

Q. Would you accept that in Letterfrack sometimes punishment was administered for failure at lessons?
A. Well, I don't know, but I would imagine it could have been. I just refer you to our own congregation documents on page 88 which said: "It is clearly stated that corporal punishment was not to be used for failure at lessons or during religious instruction class."

Q. Yes.
A. Now, I would be inclined to think that that was breached on occasions.

Q. Yes. We know that one of the brothers who has been convicted made a statement to the Garda -- well, he made a number of statements -- and in the course of one of the statements, and the names, Chairman, have been taken out, in the course of this statement he refers to the fact that he was under pressure: "I was under pressure to have the lads in my class able to read. Half of my class including -- he names a boy -- were illiterate and in my anxiety to pass my exam I used excessive corporal punishment i.e. the use of a drumstick to try and teach the lads to read. In relation to this boy I would go to his dormitory at night to help him practice his reading. I would stand him in front of a window ledge with a book propped up against the glass. One of those books would have been "The Green Man in the Hat". I would also have one or two other lads standing there at the same time learning to read. I would have a drumstick with me and I would use this as a means of punishment if one of the lads got his reading wrong. I would hit them on the knuckles, hands and sometimes on the head, I regret to say." That I think would be clearly against the rules?
A. It would.

Q. In this document, which I had up a moment ago on the screen, which was October 1956, the circular to managers and teachers, in rule 96.3 it says: "Only a light cane, rod or leather strap may be used for the purpose of corporal punishment which should be inflicted only on the open hand. The boxing of children's ears, the pulling of their hair or similar ill treatment is absolutely forbidden and will be visited with severe penalties." This was something which was well known, I think it was regularly circulated, this type of document?
A. It would, yes. As I say our own documents and Acts of Chapter would reiterate that where they say: "Punishment authorised was the leather strap and punishment could only be administered on the hand."

Q. Yes. I want to just ask you about something at page 91 of the submission of the Christian Brothers. The last paragraph in that page says: "What is clear, however, is that the leadership in the Christian Brothers was available to the membership for legitimate complaints to be made and decisions were taken in the light of complaints. In the light of current understanding of the nature of abuse, some of the decisions cannot be considered as responsible. However, the knowledge of the nature of child abuse at the time was very elementary and was as previously stated limited to viewing abuse as a moral problem that could be involved by removing the person from what was known as the occasion of sin." Now, I don't know if that's intended to refer merely sexual abuse or any form of abuse?
A. I think it would be with reference to any form of abuse. Just to say that we would consider, the Christian Brothers would consider that physical abuse and sexual abuse are equally reprehensible.

Q. Indeed. Further up on page 91 you give examples of how brothers in the community weren't slow to complain to the authorities if excessive punishment was used. You refer to a brother writing to a Provincial in 1945 complaining about harsh discipline. He described a boy with a swollen cheek as a result of being punished and that brother was removed?
A. That's right.

Q. Do you think that in all cases the complaints of people were taken seriously whether they were made while the boys were there or subsequently?
A. Well, I think just from those individual cases there, one or two in the 40's, one in the 50's and one in the 60's, I think they were taken very seriously. They were brought to the authorities and they acted in response to those very serious claims. How they responded, I think if we judge it by today they will be seen as inadequate, but I think the positive side is that action was taken and a response was given and that brothers in the community, which probably wasn't an easy thing to do, and that was to complain their colleagues to the authorities. In fact, it created quite a bit of tension in some of the communities as you probably see in the documentation. It does show that the idea of good people standing by and not doing anything was not the case in these instances.

Q. Yes. Can I ask you do you know of a former pupil, he is now deceased, Mr. Tyrrell?
A. Yes.

Q. He had written to complain about his time in Letterfrack?
A. That's correct.

Q. I just want to take you through some of the correspondence.
A. Yes.

Q. He wrote a letter -- I don't know if it's dated?
A. It's 1953 or something.

Q. I think it may be around then. It is actually, you are quite correct, it's at the very end of the letter, August 16 1953. He said he was a boy in Letterfrack for about eight years from 1924 until 1932. He made specific complaints about certain brothers, but he does say on page two of his letter: "The brothers whose names have just been mentioned -- these were in page 1 -- were good and kind to the boys." It seems he wasn't somebody who was condemning all the brothers there, he was discriminating. He says: "I am sorry to say that the names I am about to mention were bad and cruel -- then he names three brothers. He says these men were a disgrace to the Christian Brothers." He says the brothers were tyrants and another brother who was the cook in the cook house and the refectory took great pleasure in beating boys for no: "He was a sadist. For beating us he used a piece of rubber motor tyre. Almost daily we were flogged by one or other of these brothers. Dozens of times I left the dining room with my hands bleeding. On one occasion I was beaten so badly by -- he names a brother -- that my nose was broken. After my nose was broken I couldn't breathe correctly -- he complained about that. On several occasions after a meal I was taken to the pantry, which was at the end of the refectory, by -- and he names a brother. He would lock the door and make me undress and then he described how he was made sit on a stool and he would be put over his knee and flogged savagely." There was further correspondence from Mr. Tyrrell, another letter on 18 August 1953 in which he said that it's difficult to believe that such brutal punishments could be inflicted and so on and he hopes at the end of this letter, he hopes that changes have been made and that boys are no longer cruelly treated. There is a letter of 27 March 1957 to Maxwell Weldon & Company, a firm of solicitors?
A. That's right.

Q. It's not clear who it is from, but it appears to be from the Christian Brothers: "Dear Mr. Maxwell, Many thanks for your letter of 26 March re: Ms. Kennedy etc. I will let you have a reply within a few days. This evening I had a "gentlemen" named Tyrrell, ex-British army, to see me. He said he was an ex-pupil of our industrial school in Letterfrack and that the doctors had said that all his troubles were due to the hardship he got whilst in Letterfrack. I took it that he was working on the blackmail ticket and after listening to him for some time I gave him your name and address as our solicitor. I know you will know how to deal with him if he approaches." What was all that about?
A. Well, I don't know.

Q. THE CHAIRPERSON: I think we can read that one as well as you can?
A. Yes.

Q. MR. McGOVERN: It was fairly dismissive?
A. It was.

Q. If you could look at just one or two more documents in relation to this?
A. I think just with regard to those letters, he mentioned three brothers in the letter, if I remember correctly, two of whom were in Letterfrack and one of whom was not in Letterfrack. The two brothers who were in Letterfrack at the time were the two that are mentioned with serious complaints of abuse so there is no doubt that abuse took place by those two brothers.

Q. I think one of them had been mentioned as far as back as 1917 in correspondence?
A. That's correct.

Q. Had he been somewhere else in the meantime?

THE CHAIRPERSON: Mr. McGovern, could you just stop for a second. Could we get the time reference. The letters, the handwritten letters from Mr. Tyrrell.

MR. McGOVERN: Yes.

THE CHAIRPERSON: Did they come before the letter to Mr. Maxwell?

MR. McGOVERN: They did, yes. Let me double check that. About four years before.

THE CHAIRPERSON: I am sorry, I should have been following.

MR. McGOVERN: I will go back and I will find it.

THE CHAIRPERSON: He is writing to Letterfrack; is that correct?

MR. McGOVERN: Yes. Let me just double check this, Chairman.

THE CHAIRPERSON: Is that right, Brother? Mr. Tyrrell is writing to Letterfrack saying that not everybody is bad but there are some people I am complaining about.

MR. McGOVERN: It is post marked 1953.

THE CHAIRPERSON: It does seem extraordinary that afterwards when he is still going on about it, obviously Mr. Tyrrell is still unhappy about it, that he is now being dismissed.

MR. McGOVERN: It is.

THE CHAIRPERSON: As I say we can all read the correspondence, it's unfair in one way to ask you to read it and tell us what you think it means because we won't pay any attention if we don't agree with you. I just wanted to clarify that letter comes after the sequence of correspondence?

MR. McGOVERN: Yes, Chairman. The first letter is August 16, 1953 and we have the post mark of 17 August 1953 on the envelope. The next letter is 18 August. Then the letter of 27 March 1957 is the letter from somebody unidentified to Mr. Maxwell, but he is referring to this gentleman calling to see him: "This evening I had a 'gentleman' named Tyrrell, ex-British Army, to see me." It's not referring to the correspondence but to --
A. -- to a visit.

THE CHAIRPERSON: I see. It may be that he didn't know what we now know which is that this had been the subject of correspondence. Who knows. We have to put those pieces of the jigsaw together to work it out.

Q. MR. McGOVERN: Indeed. There is a further letter of 13 April 1965, this is moving on now some years, which is up on the screen. It is from a Jesuit priest, Fr. Nash. It's to Reverend Brother Clancy, who is Br. Clancy?
A. He would have been the Superior General at the time.

Q. Yes: "The enclosed letter and documents reached me here this morning. I need hardly assure you that I do not accept these statements at their face value, but it is right at the same time that you should know what this man is saying. I was going to suggest that some responsible person should attend the meeting so as to be able to offer a reply." Then the correspondence is there and there is more correspondence from Mr. Tyrrell, it's a letter dated April 11, 1965, in the course of which he says: "That three brothers he named should have been hanged for their crimes against children." This was ongoing and then there is another document which is -- sorry, Chairman, bear with me.

THE CHAIRPERSON: No, no, take your time.

Q. MR. McGOVERN: "Memories of an Irish Boyhood, Letterfrack, 1925 to 1932" from Peter Tyrrell. We have this from the Christian Brother's discovery. He talks: "About how life became even before difficult in early 1927 when a certain brother took over the kitchen and the refectory. This brother, he said, forbade us to talk during meals for weeks or even months at a time. Any infringement of his rules were punished by blows on the head, face and back with a long piece of rubber cut from a motor type. When grace after meals was over there was a stampede to get out of the refectory as the last one was usually beaten. On Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. we were compelled to stand under the showers in the bathroom which were usually too hot or too cold while Br. X beat us on our naked bodies. That practice continued for five years." This was something I was referring to earlier. Do you have a comment to make about that?
A. About the showers, is it, or about the whole thing?

Q. About the showers.
A. About the showers. Just from my knowledge of the institution the brother that he refers to would not have been the person in charge of showers. The normal thing that took place in Letterfrack was that the Resident Manager and the teachers were involved in the administration of the showers. That's my understanding from the documentation. The Resident Manager would have been downstairs in charge of the showers and the two teachers would have been up in St. Joseph and St. Patrick's corridor and would have sent the boys down in groups of 20. In terms of person, at least my understanding is that it was highly unlikely that the person who was involved in the kitchen was the person who was going to supervise the showers. Having said that memories are distant and he would have been talking about 30 years previously so he may have mixed up names.

Q. Yes. I think Mr. Tyrrell had been a member of the Committee involved in drawing up the Tuairim Report?
A. Yes.

Q. I think he had a sad end. He set himself alight in London?
A. Correct.

Q. He died. When you look back at the correspondence and the meeting he had?
A. Yes.

Q. Does that suggest anything to you?
A. I think it was a totally inadequate response. We have been dealing with allegations of abuse over the last 10 years and certainly one of the things we would always do is listen to the person who has the complaint and pay great attention to it. We would assure them that we would investigate it and we would look to see is there any voracity in it. I think there was certainly in the past, and say 10 years ago when the issue of child abuse came to the fore, there was general disbelief that this could happen. I think generally people were saying this couldn't happen in the brothers and I think there was general horror, disbelief, denial. I think with time we have discovered that it has happened in the past. Certainly the leadership of the time, it was probably one or two cases that they were dealing with and probably saw it, particularly when he was mentioning a brother who wasn't in Letterfrack amongst those three, they were probably holding on to that idea 'it's not all true, therefore can't any of it be true'. I think that was unfortunate.

Q. There was a statement made to the Garda by one of the two brothers convicted in more recent times. I am putting up the statement -- it's redacted, Chairman -- by one of the two brothers who said that he is a former member of the Christian Brothers Order. While we are on that topic, the other brother who was guilty of the more gross sexual abuse, is he still a member of the Christian Brothers?
A. He is.

Q. Will he remain so? 3
A. It's always a dilemma that we have when a brother transgresses seriously in the area of sexual abuse. Do we dismiss him from the congregation and leave him to go into society without any controls or do we keep him in the congregation and ensure that there is proper supervision of him. It's a thing that has been debated very much and there would be a lot of divergent thinking on it. Some people would say they should be immediately dismissed from the congregation.

Q. Earlier in your statement or submission you refer to the dismissal of a brother in the congregation as one of the satisfactory ways in which they were dealt with and there were other ways, when I was asking you why they were never reported to the Garda and you said internally they were dealt with in a number of different ways, one of which was dismissal?
A. Yes.

Q. I am just wondering?
A. Well, I suppose there is a divergence of opinion there. Quite a number of brothers would feel that if a brother betrays the trust of the congregation he should be dismissed immediately. In a sense that's an easier thing to do. He is sent out and he is dismissed. There are other people who are saying 'if we just dismiss him and leave him out there, what can he do, is he free to misbehave'. We have this brother who is in jail at the moment and we have to make a decision when we comes out do we dismiss him. We may dismiss him, but we also have to look at seeing can we protect society from a person who is like that within the congregation as a service to society.

Q. Anyway I was digressing from the statement. He said: "I started in Letterfrack the same time -- he mentions other brothers. When we arrived in Letterfrack we were instructed how to impose discipline and keep control of the boys in the school -- then he names two brothers -- told us how to carry out the punishments. These punishments consisted of the following: Boys were made to run in a circle around the yard in total silence in an almost hypnotic state to the point of exhaustion. This was done wear them down mentally and physically. It was demonstrated on us on arrival so that we would know how to do it. I carried out this punishment myself and I saw it taking place on other occasions. While the boys were running, they would be kicked in the backside or beaten with a leather strap if they slowed down or fell behind. Another punishment was the placing of a chair in the middle of the yard and making a boy sit on it while the others were made to kick footballs at him. This could go on for half an hour or more. Another form of punishment was to make a boy sit or kneel in silence in the dining room during meal times. He would not be fed or spoken to on these occasions. Bedwetters would be humiliated by being singled out and verbally abused in front of other boys and were made to wash and dry their own sheets. They would also be also be beaten with leather straps." Now, I have to say to you that he makes another statement where he says they were never beaten to his knowledge. I am just saying that to you. He describes indeed how they would have been bent over a chair and beaten on the bare backside: "I have seen boys beaten in the showers -- on the next page -- if they jumped out from under the water. I did this myself. They would jump out of the showers if the water was too hot or too cold. This happened on a Saturday evening which was the time set out for the boys to have showers. Boys were beaten on a regular and continual basis by members of staff at Letterfrack. The policy with regard to the perceived breakdown of discipline was to target the culprits and make a show of them." Do you have any comment to make on that?

A. I do really. I would question that document. It's a document written in my view to some way justify the abuse that was perpetrated by that brother. Talking to former brothers in Letterfrack, I have never come across any of that description of punishment and abuse. I just wonder about it. I would doubt it and in fact I would doubt a lot of that document.

Q. But he does describe a fairly harsh r gime?
A. Yes, which having talked to brothers who lived there over the years they would not be talking about that, they would say it was a place that required a lot of care, a lot of time to the boys, but I refer to the statements of three former pupils in the 60's, which would be about the same time, who made these statements to the Garda and said they saw no evidence of sexual and physical abuse. I just wonder. It's just one man's view of the situation in Letterfrack, but a lot of the brothers I have talked to who were there wouldn't have that experience.

Q. The other brother, the brother who is in jail for the more serious offences, made a statement or a number of statements to the Garda . In the course of one he refers to the allegations about a person where he is alleging that: "I lashed out with a carving knife in the kitchen in St. Joseph's and in so doing that his thumb was cut on his left hand. I can't remember that happening, but I accept that the possibility of such a thing happening is probably true. I accept that I did have a vicious temper when I was in Letterfrack. This was borne out of frustration of being stationed there and eating on my own, lack of community company and no leisure time." This gets back to an issue we were discussing earlier of the stresses the brothers were under?

A. You see I find it very difficult to respond to individual statements that I presume in the private hearings will be dealt with and people will respond to them; therefore, I find it quite difficult to respond himself to them. I do know the brother is in jail and I am sure he will respond about those allegations himself.

Q. When you look back over the time that Letterfrack was being run by the Christian Brothers, what is your overall assessment of the work that was done there and what it achieved?
A. If I could show, I just got information about three days ago and there is an overhead there where it compares the academic achievement of boys in Letterfrack as opposed to the academic achievement nationally. I only got this material from the statistic session of the Department of Education at the last moment. In that ...(INTERJECTION)

THE CHAIRPERSON: I just wanted to make sure that we got the thing up on the screen. I knew it was coming down the line.
A. They are the statistics that they have available or have made available as to the national percentage of people who got the Primary Certificate from 1943 to 1965. You will see that in terms of Letterfrack it certainly has a creditable success rate in the Primary Cert. I say that because Letterfrack, I would say, since its foundation provided shelter and education for almost 3,000 boys and for almost 100 years I would say that the brothers toiled selflessly to offer these young people a way forward in their lives. It was demanding work and often work that was hidden and unrecognised and it demanded sacrifice and commitment. I would say that many boys benefitted from their education and care that they received, but there were problems. Boys were abused in Letterfrack, sexual and physical abuse was perpetrated by a number of brothers individually and in isolated incidents and by lay staff. Secret acts of abuse were carried out leading to deep psychological damage to those who were abused and the Christian Brothers would be deeply sorry that this took place. It should be noted with the caveat that you have mentioned that there was no cover-up within the organisation when individual brothers were discovered to have abused and action was taken swiftly and efficiently. In most cases the brothers were dismissed when they were discovered to have abused children. Unfortunately, however, there were some few instances where the action taken would be judged totally inadequate by present standards. In addition, there were brothers who abused and at the time were not discovered to have committed that offence. That meant that boys were abused and nothing was done because nothing was known and that was tragic. To all those who suffered abuse in whatever form it happened the Christian Brothers express their deepest sorrow and shame that such should have happened and we repeat our apology of 1998 when we apologised unreservedly for those who were abused. Our hope is that those who have been hurt as a result of abuse may somehow experience the healing that comes from telling their story. We welcome the Ryan Commission's decision to offer people the opportunity to tell their story. We hope that the final report will present a true picture of what life was like in residential care. We do believe, and I think this is important, to honour the 85 brothers who worked in Letterfrack that the vast majority of them worked tirelessly in residential care. It's vital to avoid accusing every brother of crimes of those who abused children. Only when we are able to distinguish between the light and the dark can we come to some appreciation of the contribution that residential care made to the nation of Ireland while never forgetting the serious harm done to some.

Q. I know you would like to finish then, I don't want to ruin your ending so to speak, I am sorry, and I am not being flippant, I don't intend to be, but just to go back to that chart. It does show Letterfrack as something of a centre of excellence. I am just wondering about this, I think it is accepted and you have already said as much that Letterfrack was comprising of mostly boys from socially disadvantaged areas and deprived backgrounds. It looks strange to me I have to say to find that the Letterfrack results appear to be better than the national average and that's why I am wondering whether all the boys in fact went through to do their Primary Cert?
A. Yes, I can assure you that it did happen. We have looked very carefully at the statistics of the people in the school and we have all the details, each class, how much were in class one, two, three, four, five, six, so in actual fact we are absolutely sure that the statistics that you saw earlier ...(INTERJECTION)

Q. Table 8, I think.
A. Table 8, yes. Not everybody did sit. You can see that the first column shows the number and then maybe six out of the seven sat. In fact they are the results. I would just further like to comment that we skipped over a little bit about the cultural activities that took place in Letterfrack. I mean there was drama, there were musicals, there was sport. In fact there was an enormous amount happening. The school used to travel all the small towns around the West of Ireland putting on shows. I am just saying that to show. If it was a harsh r gime, as it can be sometimes painted, you would hardly expect brothers to be spending time putting Irish dancing, gymnastics, drill, music, theatre, harmonica, flutes, obviously the vast majority of brothers were trying their best to make up for all the lack that was there, but that doesn't take away from the abuse and that's the tragedy.

MR. McGOVERN: Thank you very much indeed

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