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July 2015 Archives

Former Christian Brother



A sentencing judge has welcomed a paedophile and former Christian Brother’s “substantial change of heart” after he pleaded guilty for the first time to sex assaults on two pupils at the North Monastery secondary school in Cork.



Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin referred to the 30 months already being served by Edward Bryan, 62, for the sexual abuse of three other students — charges on which he was convicted by a jury after his denials — and imposed a concurrent one-year sentence yesterday.

“Edward Bryan has pleaded guilty to counts of indecent assault on two young boys when he was a teacher in a school here in the city,” said the judge. “Aggravating factors are the age difference and he was in a position of authority. He abused that trust in authority.

“A significant difference is his present attitude and the fact that he has pleaded guilty. That to me is a huge change and a change for the better.

“It is a public vindication that the accused is wrong, that the victims are vindicated in what they said and that the complaints they made were right and he was wrong, for the first time ever. It is some level of insight and remorse that was never there before, indicative of a substantial change of heart to be welcomed.”

Judge Ó Donnabháin said he recognised the value to the victim of the accused pleading guilty to the crimes.

Detective Sergeant Vincent O’Sullivan outlined the background to the assaults in the 1980s. Both of the teenagers were being coached after school in sports when the crimes were committed.

In the first case, the student was training for kayaking and was being coached by Bryan who told him that rubbing against the canoe could give him a rash. Bryan advised the boy to strip naked so Bryan could rub cream into his body, including his genital area.

“He could feel Edward Bryan breathing heavily behind him in his left ear,” the detective said.

The second boy was staying back for extra individual basketball training. Similarly he was asked to strip naked and in this instance lie on the floor with the Christian Brother, also naked, lying on top of him rubbing his penis against his thighs. He used a towel to rub the boy in the genital area.

Brendan Kelly defence barrister said: “He has instructed me to apologise profusely to the victims for any harm caused to them over the years. He apologises to his family and to the order [Christian Brothers] for any disrepute he has brought to them.”

Bryan, of Martinvilla, Athboy Rd, Trim, Co Meath, was not in Cork Circuit Criminal Court last month for sentencing, as the prosecution said he had attempted suicide at his home.

One of the victims did not want his victim impact statement read in court and it was given to the judge yesterday.

The other injured party said previously: “The sexual abuse inflicted on me that evening left me feeling scared, confused and ultimately embarrassed to the point where I never confided with anyone about what had occurred until recently.

“As a result of your abuse, I felt that you took that element of trust from me which has had a detrimental effect on my further life, in being unable to place my trust in people and feeling paranoid in regard to what their true intentions were.

“I have carried around the shame of his sexual abuse for my entire adult life, never addressing it and always shutting it away from my memories out of embarrassment. I suppose I would say that you have stolen a moment of my life that I can never have back and will always have a resounding effect on my life.

“I hope he recognises and appreciates the effects his actions have had on me. I appreciate your admission of guilty not having this matter go through a trial process.”

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They lost sight of the original vision of the founder, Edmund Rice.



Peter Stanford reports on the stern Catholic teaching order that has admitted cruelty and abuse

They trained captains of industry, Hollywood stars, even a succession of Irish prime ministers. But last week the Christian Brothers, one of the best-known Catholic teaching orders, admitted that the education they have been offering for almost 200 years is seriously flawed. Brother Edmund Garvey, Dublin-based head of the order, publicly asked for forgiveness from ex-pupils who had been "physically abused and sometimes even sexually abused in our care".

The unconditional and abjectly humble nature of Brother Garvey's apology may have raised eyebrows among ex-CB pupils such as John Birt, director-general of the BBC, and the impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, brought up in the strict atmosphere of the order's schools. But his description of a "harsh and at times cruel" regime will have been painfully familiar.

Success in turning out high-flyers - other old boys include film stars Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, poet Roger McGough, aerospace chief Sir Brian Pearse, supermarket bosses Terry Leahy of Tesco and Kevin McCarten of Sainsburys, television presenters Laurie Taylor and Pete McCarthy and every Fianna Fail taoiseach from Eamon de Valera to Albert Reynolds - came with a physical and emotional cost.

Boys were prepared for passing exams by a combination of relentless study and remorseless use of the strap, an 8in-long leather baton which thrashed young hands, legs and bottoms with all the regularity of the chiming of the angelus bell.

And in some schools, this humiliation of youngsters went further. A series of court cases in recent years have exposed sexual abuse by Christian Brothers staff. Teachers from the order were convicted in 1990 of sexual abuse at Mount Cashel High in St John's, Newfoundland. One former pupil, Shane Earle, told the court: "I had encounters with five of them within a month of my arrival at six years of age. At Christmas I had the most gifts. I thought I was well-loved. I was given things after sexual encounters."

Similar cases in other Commonwealth countries where the order operates have cast what some ex-pupils would say is a disproportionate shadow over its achievements and form the backdrop for Brother Garvey's surprise statement last week.

While all religious orders have suffered a sharp decline in vocations in recent years, the Christian Brothers - who take vows of celibacy but are not priests and thus hover uneasily between clergy and laity - have suffered a classic third-party squeeze. In Ireland, home to 900 of the remaining 1,800 Brothers worldwide, there is now just one novice preparing for final vows. In the 60-strong English province, there are none.

A chapter in British educational history has already closed. The Brothers' remaining schools - two in Liverpool and one each in Birkenhead, Manchester, Stoke, Sunderland and Plymouth - now operate with lay heads and a minimal day- to-day involvement by the order. In Ireland, complete withdrawal is near at hand. Brother Garvey's candour has therefore been taken as a deathbed confession on behalf of his order.

After being taught in their school in Birkenhead, Peter Connor was one of the last vocations to the Brothers in England in the early 1980s. Like all his contemporaries, he has since left. Though he acknowledges some damage done by the allegations of sexual abuse, he puts the decline of the order down to other factors.

"They lost sight of the original vision of the founder, Edmund Rice, to teach the children of the poor, and ended up in the 1980s, after the demise of grammar schools, running private schools for the rich.

"It was a mistake, made because they had grown too comfortable and couldn't see beyond the schools themselves to find the contemporary context for Rice's vision."

By opting into the independent sector, Mr Connor believes, the Brothers shed what had previously been their distinct identity. "Orders like the Benedictines have never made any bones about wanting to cream off an elite and teach them. But the Brothers were always more egalitarian and idealistic."

And indeed the privileged Catholic set - the Norfolks, the Longfords, the Paul Johnsons - always preferred the cachet of the Benedictines of Ampleforth or the Jesuits of Stonyhurst, with their Establishment aspirations, to the more earthy, Irish, scholarship-boy ethos of the Christian Brothers.

Unable to staff their schools, the Brothers did belatedly try in the late 1980s to recapture their radical edge - moving into council houses in deprived areas, opening an Aids centre in Dublin, harnessing the enthusiasm of young people through the New Creation community initiative. But, though they were unstintingly generous with their physical and financial resources, it was too little too late. Numbers continue to fall and, without manpower, the Brothers face a bleak future.

At 45, one of the youngest of the order, Brother Francis Hall, deputy provincial of the CBs in England, refuses to be too gloomy. "Our focus is changing. We are still attracting vocations in West Africa, and while we are not a workforce in this country any more in terms of schools, we are still there in a back-up role, as trustees, governors, establishing an ethos, giving spiritual direction."

Recently an eight-point statement defining what is distinct about any school associated with the Christian Brothers was agreed. It stresses - alongside making society more just, compassion for the weak, and building up the community - the rich tradition of the order. Does that include the aspects Brother Garvey has been highlighting?

"Well, it certainly doesn't mean beating the living daylights out of pupils," says Brother Hall. He regrets the stereotypes of an education at the hands of the Christian Brothers and feels that the omnipresence of the strap has been overstated. "You have to see it in the context of a time when corporal punishment was routinely used in all schools. We wouldn't dream of doing it now."

Mr Connor says: "Weak leadership and weak management by the Brothers in the past allowed brutal teachers - both brothers and lay teachers - into classrooms when they should never have been allowed into the presence of vulnerable people, let alone children."

Yet, like most graduates of the CBs, he retains a large measure of affection for the order. He has continued teaching in its school in Sunderland and was even promoted after he had renounced his vows. Indeed, in all of its schools the order is spoken of by lay staff and headteachers with genuine respect as having established educational goals that remain challenging.

Sir Brian Pearse, one-time pupil of the CBs in Liverpool, ex-chief executive of the Midland Bank, chair of the Housing Corporation and boss of LucasVarity plc, is fulsome in his praise. "I have always regarded the education I received at Saint Edward's as one of the major platforms for my life."

The high standards the Brothers set were achieved painfully and with considerable human cost, as Brother Garvey has now admitted, but their long-term impact on society at large may well outlive the order.

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Clash over Glin industrial school files

Tom Wall, survivor of St Josephs Industrial School in Glin claims hundreds of files were burnt

  • by Norma Prendiville


The collection of files was given on loan to UL by Tom Wall, who managed to save the files from being burnt when the Christian Brothers were vacating Glin in 1973.

Now Mr Wall, who was incarcerated in Glin Industrial School at the age of three and survived hunger, cold and sexual abuse there, has described the attempt to reclaim the collection as “despicable”. And for him, it has thrown their apologies about the past into doubt.

Solicitors acting for the European Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers have told Mr Wall that the collection is the rightful property of the European Province and that he was not entitled to pass them on.

But Mr Wall, who has documented his own abuse and the harsh regime in Glin in his book The Boy from Glin Industrial School, is determined to fight them on the issue. He believes the collection is hugely valuable historically and must be preserved for future historians and researchers. “It is the only one of its kind,” he told the Limerick Leader this week.

And he has now challenged the Christian Brothers’ European Province to prove their legal entitlement to the documents. “The Christian Brothers don’t own these documents,” he claimed. The Christian Brothers were paid by and operated the Industrial School on behalf of the State, he argued. “These were documents that were open to inspection by the Department of Education,” he said. In effect, Mr Wall argued, they are State documents.

He has also challenged the Christian Brothers on another issue, demanding to know by what right did the Christian Brothers burn hundreds of other documents when they were closing up St Joseph’s in Glin in late 1973? The industrial school had ceased operating in 1966 but the Christian Brother subsequently renovated the building with a view to using it as a novitiate, Mr Wall explained. However, this did not materialise as “the numbers were not strong enough.”

“In November 1973,” Mr Wall told the Limerick Leader, “I was ordered to burn all the files in the office in Glin apart from a few ledgers that Br X wanted.” The ledgers were put in boot of a car.

“There were thousands of documents in the office, from when the industrial school came to Glin in 1928 and all the files dating back to 1870 in Sexton St,” Mr Wall continued, adding that he was told to pile them up on the lawn and start burning. They were operating a “scorch policy”, Mr Wall maintained and every trace was to go.

“But part of those files were me. I was in those files. I caught a big bundle. i just grabbed them to see if I could get my own. I took a couple of ledgers as well. I hid them. They wanted them burned.”

Mr Wall believes he managed to save some up to 900 files but reckons hundreds, possibly thousands more were burned.

Among the documentation, he claimed, were several letters, letters which he said were written by boys but never posted or letters sent to the boys from family members but never given to them. One of these letters was for Tom himself. It was a letter from an aunt asking him to visit her in Limerick. “That letter was never delivered to me,” he said. Other documentation concerns the hiring out of boys to farm familes as well as photographs.

The files remained in the attic of a house in Glin for 42 years until earlier this year, when they were accepted into the special collections archive at UL. “I was looking for an archive that would take the entire collection. It was the story of every boy,” he said. “These are vital documents that mus be saved.”

Dr Vincent O’Connell, who specialises in public history and cultural heritage in 20th century Ireland at UL, acknowledged the outstanding merit of the collection in a newspaper article earlier this year. He remarked at the time that it was an opportunity to “shine a light into the darkest corners of our country’s recent past.”

However, once it came into the public domain via newspaper articles that the collection was being lodged in UL, the Christian Brothers began seeking its return.

Now UL has told Mr Wall it will only release the documentation following agreement between him and the European Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers or the direction of a court. In any event, any access to the archive would be governed by data protection.

Mr Wall’s claims and allegations were put to Edmund Garvey of the European Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers but he declined to comment pointing out that the matter is being handled by their solicitor.

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Mr Quinn did very little for survivors when Minister of Education?

Quinn: Church hard-nosed over redress


The Catholic Church has been accused of being “in the propaganda business” over its refusal to pay 50% of a redress scheme for victims of abuse.



Former education minister Ruairí Quinn issued a scathing attack on the Church — which has refused to cough up 50% of the €1.5bn redress bill.

A €127m contribution was agreed under a 2001 indemnity deal agreed by then education minister Michael Woods. Further offers were made in 2009.the 50/50 principle, despite having more than enough assets to make up the €250m shortfall.“They just are refusing to make the contribution. I don’t have and I didn’t have as minister, nor does Jan O’Sullivan the current minister for education and skills, or indeed the Government, have the legal powers to compel them to pay, without repudiating the deal done by Fianna Fáil,” he told NewstalThe former minister said he had offered the congregations an “honourable way out” by transferring the title deeds of their schools to the Department of Education but this had been refused, as had the 50:50 principle.

Mr Quinn said Michael Woods and Bertie Ahern had been “out-manoeuvred and out-negotiated by two very, very clever nuns” in the 2001 indemnity deal.

“These were hard-nosed people. They were looking at me and my predecessor and my successor and saying ‘how long is this guy going to be around? We can out-wait them, we can outlast them’,” he said.

Mr Quinn dismissed any notion that the religious congregations would feel a moral obligation to make up the redress shortfall stating they were in the “propaganda business”.

“No they’re not. They’re in the propaganda business of propagating a particular set of values and a particular point of view. I wouldn’t like to be playing poker against them,” he said.


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