Via Mary Kenny
Previously: Christian Brothers Stories
First wrote about allegations against Brother John Gibson in 2014.
Trial began last Monday and today he was convicted on all charges.
A long five year process for all those involved. https://t.co/DkpXNyRgyz
— Saoirse McGarrigle (@mcgarrigle1) February 18, 2019
From top: Brother John Gibson in the 1970s; Gibson in today’s Irish Mirror; A tweet last night from Saoirse McGarrigle, who first reported about Gibson in The Wexford Echo
Christian Brother John Gibson was convicted yesterday of sexually assaulting two children in the 1980s at a CBS school in Wexford.
Journalist Saoirse McGarrigle writes:
Last Tuesday Judge Elma Sheahan imposed a blanket ban on all reporting of the trial.
There was no reason given for this application for reporting restrictions on behalf of the DPP.
I called the Irish Mirror lawyer and argued the case for challenging these restrictions and he subsequently contacted lawyers for the Irish Times and Irish Independent.
They made a joint submission on Thursday and yesterday Judge Sheahan lifted the restrictions – meaning we could now name him and use photographs.
Last week we could not report that a trial was even taking place, let alone name the defendant!
The background to this case is that I interviewed a man (now deceased) while working for the Wexford Echo, who told me that he had been abused by Brother Gibson.
He then made a report to gardai and we ran the story that allegations had been made against “A Christian Brother” (no name) and detailed the nature of the claims (ie: that abuse happened after kids were asked to do odd jobs around the school and Gibson would insist on washing them.) The story resonated with others who contacted me and subsequently went to Gardai.
On Monday the trial began – based on three charges, two victims.
The significance of the reporting restrictions was that this story began with local investigative journalism.
At the culmination and conviction yesterday, it needed to be reported in national media. It was a story that needed to be told.
Getting the restrictions overturned yesterday was a huge win for press freedom and of course the victims who deserved publicity of the conviction after a long five year wait from time the story first broke and they made reports.
Previously: Christian Brothers Stories
From top: Google Earth image of Clonkeen College rugby picthes; Outside Clonkeen College, Deansgrange, County Dublin; Peter Tanham
Further to news that the Christian Brothers are selling off 60% of Deansgrange, County Dublin-based Clonkeen College’s pitches for €18m, in part to pay for their €10m contribution to the sex abuse redress scheme….
Peter Tanham writes:
The move by the Christian Brothers has been condemned by parents, pupils, staff and local residents. Understandably so, as it will have significant impact on the community.
This unilateral decision by the Christian Brothers has implications far beyond Dun Laoghaire. It serves as a microcosm for the trouble we all face as religious organisation, who own much of our schools, hospitals and public service infrastructure, continue their decline.
Who Own Schools in Ireland?
To start understanding the larger problem, let’s pause to remind ourselves how the Irish schools system is organised. The Department of Education sets the national curriculum, sets the standards for teachers and pays their salaries. It also pays for most of the investment to build and maintain school buildings and facilities.
However, it doesn’t run the individual schools. Instead, it outsources this responsibility to organisations like the ERST, Catholic Schools, Educate Together and others. These organisations are known as Patrons. Patrons establish the ethos of the schools, they set the enrolment policies and they appoint the Boards of Management to each individual school in their patronage. The Board are in charge of the day-to-day running of each school.
96% percent of our Primary Schools and half of our secondary schools are in the patronage of a religious organisation.
Technically, these schools are privately owned but publicly funded, since the taxpayer pays the bulk of the building and running costs.
The Sale of the Pitches
This brings us back to Clonkeen College. The Christian Brothers own the land and the buildings, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST), a lay organisation created by the Brother’s in 2008, are the Patrons, and the taxpayer (via the Department of Education) pay for the teachers, pupils and investment in buildings and facilities.
In recent years the Department of Education (i.e. taxpayer funds) have spent €700,000 to drain, level and fence the playing pitches around the school, according to the principal Edward Melly.
They made these investments because the Christian Brothers gave them a guarantee that the school’s land, although owned by the Christian Brothers, would be given on licence to the ERST as long as the school is in existence.
“The Brothers gave us repeated permission to invest in and carry out works on the lands. They gave us no indication at any point they were at risk. We made extensive investments based on that information.”
On May 3, 2017, the Christian Brothers unilaterally informed the school’s board of management that they had entered into contracts for the sale of 7.5 acres – about 60% of the school’s sports pitches.
This week, after a parliamentary question in the Dáil, Richard Bruton admitted that the Christian Brothers have told him that the pitches have already been sold after 12 months of secret negotiations with a property developer.
The Christian Brother’s gave no prior warning to the School’s principal, parents or Board of Management.
That is the state of our Education infrastructure in Ireland in 2017. Over 2,000 schools are maintained and run with taxpayer money, but if the organisation which owns them decides to sell the facilities, we can’t intervene to stop them.
As we speak, how many other schools’ facilities might the Church be secretly negotiating to sell?
Effect on the Community
The sale of two thirds of a school’s pitches will undoubtedly be detrimental to the education of the 500 pupils of the school, but more than that it should act as a canary in the coal mine for how we, as a country, approach not just education but public service provision in general.
Last month, The Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary got €13m from the sale of a 5.4-acre land attached to Our Lady’s Grove Primary School in Goatstown Road, despite protests of parents.
We are all paying, through taxes, to invest in public infrastructure like Schools and hospitals, which are owned not by us, but by private organisations who are then free to turnaround and sell them or change their use in ways that aren’t in everyone’s collective best interest.
Nowhere is this more evident and troublesome than the €300m we’re about to invest in a new National Maternity Hospital which will be fully owned by a private organisation, not the state.
Where We Go From Here
The numbers in the religious organisations in Ireland are rapidly dwindling and getting older. They will be the first to tell you that. They see the writing on the wall.
We’re at the start of a decade or two of massive change, which can either one of two outcomes. The first, if our government remain disengaged, is more and more schools being affected like Clonkeen and Our Lady’s Grove, with their lands sold to the highest bidder. Rising property prices will drive this further.
The second, is that we re-engage with these organisations, using both carrots and sticks, to start the necessary transfer of education provision into the custody of the state, as it is in any modern country.
I have talked to many in the church who acknowledge that (in their words) they took the education system this far, but now it needs to be handed over to the state.
There are many good people within these organisations who know that the transition needs to take place, and they just want acknowledgement that many of them did good, honest, compassionate work to educate where the state failed to do so.
It is possible to acknowledge that good work of those in religious life, while at the same time abhorring the current set up and feel an urgent need for change.
This doesn’t have to be a battle at every stage, but at many points it will be.
In my day job (I run a tech company), when people make large investments in a business they take equity ownership. I don’t see why the same can’t happen here.
If Simon Harris is investing €300m in the National Maternity Hospital, at the bare minimum that should come with a large % ownership stake in the Saint Vincent Hospital Group.
Every time the Department of Education makes an investment in a school property or grounds, it could similarly start taking equity in the school ownership in return.
The funds they used to buy these lands came from tax exempt donations from the Irish public. These tax exemptions amount to decades of public subsidies, so compelling them to act in the public interest isn’t an outrageous demand.
Over time we can start transitioning our public infrastructure into state ownership for the benefit of future generations – exactly where it should have been all along. This is not an immediate solution, but a problem this big rarely has quick fixes.
Peter Tanham is the CEO of an Irish tech company and the Social Democrats representative for Dun Laoghaire. Follow Peter on Twitter: @PeterTanham
An audit of how the Christian Brothers dealt with abuse allegations has found only 12 brothers were convicted of crimes between 1975 and today.
It revealed allegations were made against 325 brothers – only 50 of whom are still alive – with 870 complaints of abuse in the 38-year period.
It described the level of abuse from members of the order as substantial.
And it warned: “The number of convictions by the courts, compared to the numbers accused of child abuse, is significantly small.”
Previously: Christian brothers Stories
A [21-year-old] former classroom assistant (above) who allegedly made a sex tape with a Belfast schoolboy that ended up on a pornographic website could face up to five years in prison for ‘abuse of trust’ if charged and convicted.
The former classroom assistant was suspended from St Mary’s Christian Brothers Boy’s Grammar School in west Belfast after a 30-minute sex video, featuring her and a teenager, thought to be a 16-year-old, emerged on the internet.
The age of consent for sexual activity in Northern Ireland is 16, however it is illegal for anyone in a position of trust to engage in sexual activity with a person under 18 years of age.
Sex tape image see over Continue reading
Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly and abuse survivor John Allen were physically barred from attending the event [at the Convention Centre]. Clearly stressed, and as he grappled with two bouncers, Mr Daly said he wasn’t being admitted because he and Mr Allen wanted to distribute a leaflet (above).
Previously: Christian Brother Stories
(Pic: Sunday Times)
Yesterday we featured the forthcoming celebrations [to be attended by Mary McAleese] to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Edmund Ignatius Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers order.
The item brought back a few memories:
“I attended O’Connell’s CBS during the Seventies. I and my fellow students had the crap beaten out of us on a regular basis by these “christian” brothers. I recall many fellow students being beaten with a leather strap with bits of lead sewn into it or with a half inch thick wooden stick. These were not isolated incidents, but a pattern of behavior which persisted for decade.” (Realpolithick)
“Every day for no good reason, Any excuse to beat up a child. It started on our first day and continued until we were big enough to defend ourselves. It was institutional violence and the lay teachers were actively encouraged to join in. Some of the lay teachers became worse bullies than the Brothers.” (Bacchus)
“A guy in my year was singled out for being born in England by one Christian Brother…that was weird (around 1989).” (Johnner)
“My first day at this new school, the Headmaster, a vicious little thug, stood me up before the whole class and asked me question after question which I couldn’t answer (different curriculum). He then, from that day onwards, found ways to abuse me physically and emotionally; no fiddling but a lot of the strap. Also my accent came in for constant ridicule, from staff and boys alike.” (Mcp)
“Three of the brothers from my school have since been done for sexually assaulting students in the school. One is currently pending trial for 170 or so counts of abuse in another school….As for the general attitude of arrogance that wafted from both the brothers and the lay teachers that worked under them. I can only hope the Irish Naval vessel currently stationed outside the Convention Centre [Dublin] shells it on Saturday while this [anniverary celebration] is on.” (Wayne F)
“Only day I was ever relatively happy was my second to last day at primary, as per usual I got a beating for not joining in the prayers. Went home for lunch. Told my mum. She just shrugged her shoulders. I returned to school after lunch. I was in the science class with a certian evil Limerick scumbag. There was a knock on the door, and seconds later that sadistic man was out cold on the floor. By my dad. ” (Kevin Maher)
“I too went to a Christian Brothers school, but fortunately it was more recently, in the 90′s and I was not subjected to corporal punishment. There was still a mentality that children were scum, teachers were distant and punishments were severe, but nothing physical.” (Munkifisht)
I went to CBS schools in the 60s and 70s. I found that there were far more decent caring brothers than thugs. There was a couple of sadistic bstards but the majority were ok.The system was far from perfect but it was the only show in town.My only complaint is that we were educated to serve rather than to lead. (Miles O’Tool)
“Yes, I went through the meat grinder that was a C.B.S. education in the ’60s and ’70s, when corporal punishment was all the rage and the Christian Brothers were supplied with a standard issue ‘leather’, a mass produced seven or eight inch length of leather that had old pennies sewn into their several layers. ‘Six of the best’ on each outstretched hand would have you numb for ten or fifteen minutes before the excruciating pain kicked in. This is to say nothing of the Christian Brothers who liked to inflict more inventive tortures involving rulers, chalk, canes, and their bare hands. Luckily, I arrived into the system a mere year or two after they had stopped forcing left-handed boys to use their right hands for schoolwork. Anyway, as I say to my two daughters, who stare at me in disbelief when I relate this approach to education, it never did me any harm (he says with a nervous tic).” (John Kenny)
Previously: No More Mr Rice Guy
Unhappiest days of your life?
You may not like this so:
Next Saturday Mary McAleese will join Christian Brothers and
survivors past-pupils in the Convention Centre, Dublin, to mark the [250th] anniversary year [of the birth of the order’s founder Edmund Ignatius Rice.
All are welcome.
Jim Bradley, who went to CBS Westland Row, writes:
Just as there can be no denial that some who purported to follow the teachings of Edmund Rice lost their way and besmirched his legacy, others, the silent majority, upheld his philosophy in a true Christian tradition and their legacy should not be forgotten. It must be acknowledged, however, that there are past pupils who did not have the same good experience that most of us did. We are all brought together, however, by our common bond of being past pupils. They have a very special and equal place in the Edmund Rice community.
Some Catholic orders, the Christian Brothers in particular, imparted a potent mixture of muscular Christianity, an often rabid patriotism and an authoritarian and puritan lifestyle. A particular political style combining a bullying style of argument with holier-than-thou postures characterised some of the the products of their schools.
From Preventing The Future By Tom Garvin (Gill & Macmillan)
(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)