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.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Schools inspector who knew about sex offences did not alert gardai to crimes

THE State inspector of industrial schools failed to tell gardai of a sex abuse case she knew of in 1954. This is the first time it has come out that Dr Anna McCabe, a Department of Education employee, was aware of sex abuse at an industrial school. The Child Abuse Commission yesterday heard disturbing evidence concerning St Joseph's Industrial School, Kilkenny, run by the Sisters of Charity. It heard that in 1954 the school found a painter had been sexually abusing some of the girls there.

The case became known only after sisters in charge became concerned that two girls were "exhibiting immoral sexual conduct", and were teaching other girls to do the same. Dr McCabe, inspector of industrial schools in the 1940s to 1960s, separateinterviewed nine girls, to find the painter interfered with some of them. On November 2 1954, the Department of Education wrote to the school and proposed that Dr McCabe should consult the local parish priest, Fr O'Keefe, who would decide whether to consult his bishop on the matter.

On November 5, the painter was dismissed after a meeting between Dr McCabe, parish priest Fr O'Keefe and the school manager. The commission was told Fr O'Keefe requested that the man not be prosecuted and Dr McCabe agreed. Fr O'Keefe reasoned that although the man "deserved penal servitude", a trial would bring the school into "deep disrepute". Also, the girls would have to testify and this would leave an "indelible mark" on them.

The Commission heard that Dr McCabe was of the view that Fr O'Keefe's advice showed him to be a "sensible and shrewd pastor", and she agreed with his approach. Fr O'Keefe also decided not to make the case known to his Bishop, Dr Patrick Collier, because he was in poor health and might find it too shocking. The commission discussed three other cases at the school, and when the sisters first knew of them.

One involved David Murray, a trained childcare worker who was employed by the institute as part of a reform in 1972 aimed at providing boys at the centre with a 'father figure'. He was sacked in 1976 after Sr Joseph Conception found evidence against him. Another case, in 1976, involved Myles Brady, another trained child-care worker, dismissed after he was found to have interfered with boys. Murray and Brady were later convicted and sentenced. The Commission also heard about a fourth case of abuse involving a woman who left St Joseph's in the 1980s. The Commission will now go into private session and hear further evidence about St Joseph's.

David Quinn Social Affairs Correspondent Irish Independent