School sex abuse trial hears of letters to victim's family

Seventy-two year-old Christian Brother pleads not guilty to thirty-five counts of indecent assault

A jury has been given copies of letters exchanged between a Christian Brother and the family of a boy who was lodged in a Galway residential school after his father lost their family home to a neighbour in a game of cards.

The now 50-year-old man is one of six former residents who claim they were sexually assaulted over a six year period by another brother who is on trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The 72-year-old accused has pleaded not guilty to 35 counts of indecently assaulting the boys between 1967 and 1973 when they were residents at the school.

The 50-year-old man rejected the suggestion by Mr Hugh Hartnett SC (with Mr Philip Rhan BL ), in cross-examination on day-two of the trial, that he was discharged from the school in 1974 when he reached 16 years of age as indicated in the correspondence and that the accused had been transferred from the school in 1973.

"I know it was the accused who brought me to the station when I left the place," he insisted.

He had earlier told prosecution counsel, Mr Eanna Mulloy SC (with Mr Fergal Foley BL ), that he was made leave the school weeks before he was due to sit the Group Certificate in 1974 because he threatened the accused with a glass bottle and warned him not "to come near me anymore".

Mr Hartnett read a letter dated November 1973 to the witness's father in which the brother then in charge of the residence described the witness as "a fine boy" though "hot-tempered" and went to claim he had "little ability [and] had no hope of getting the Group Certificate".

The father was advised that his son would therefore be discharged in April 1974 when he reached 16 years of age and that the family should have a job ready for him when he got out.

Mr Hartnett noted that a replying letter dated March 25, 1974 from the man's father asked that he be put on a train from Galway to a certain town where he would meet his son and have a job ready for him.

"There was no job waiting for me. My father brought me into a pub and gave me a glass of Guinness with a spoon or two of sugar in it," the man replied.

"My father then said to me 'you are home now, make a life for yourself' and I was on my own after that. I didn't even live with my parents who were in a mobile home but went to my brother's house."

He added that he didn't believe his father wrote the March 1974 letter because he wasn't good at writing.

He agreed with Mr Hartnett that it was his first time to see some of the documents introduced by the defence which included a copy from the register of people sent to industrial schools stating he was lodged there because his parents had failed to exercise "proper guardianship" and he was undernourished.

He said he was "undernourished" when he was lodged there at six years of age and he weighed "nine stones, seven pounds" when he left. He said he had also been continually physically abused by a nurse in the residence.

The trial continues before Judge Tony Hunt and a jury of six men and seven women.

Earlier this week, the trial heard that the now 50-year-old man claimed he was made leave the school weeks before he was due to sit the Group Certificate in 1974 because he threatened the brother with a glass bottle and warned him not "to come near me anymore".

He also told prosecuting counsel, Mr Eanna Mulloy SC, at the trial of the brother at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, that he once saw a picture in a newspaper of his father eating razor blades and light bulbs in "a bet over a pint".

The man told Mr Mulloy he was abused by several people at the school from when he was sent there at the age of eight to when he left at 14. He rejected archive evidence presented by defence counsel, Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, that the accused wasn't even teaching in the school in 1974 and had been moved to a school in Dublin the previous year. "That's what he's saying, I'm saying he brought me to the train station when I left the school," he replied, adding that the archives could have being altered to protect the accused.

He continued: "I'm sticking to my story. You're saying that but I know of other cases where Brothers were moved around the country under other names." He told Mr Mulloy he was sent to the school at eight years of age after growing up with an alcoholic father and disabled mother and they had been living in a mobile home after his father lost their house to a neighbour over a game of cards. He said during his time at the school he thought he was sexually abused "30 or 40" times by various brothers and had been penetrated on one occasion, but not by the accused.

He said the accused would keep him back after the boys had showered and inspect behind his ears for dirt. If dirt was found he was made clean out the shower room as punishment. He told Mr Mulloy the accused would take him into one of the cubicles and put his hands on his genitalia and "rub them" and the brother would then get him to put his hands on his penis to masturbate him.

He said the accused would "usually be drunk" as he could smell the alcohol on his breath. He said he was abused by several people in the school, both sexually and otherwise, including a nurse who made him sit in cold water when he got sunburnt and scrubbed the blisters off with a deck brush. The man said he was sent home from the school when he threatened the accused with a broken coke bottle. He said he was told the reason was that his parents had found him a job but this turned out to be false. He agreed with Mr Hartnett that he was a recovered alcoholic and couldn't remember some details of his original Garda statement.

"Sometimes I can't even remember what happened yesterday, never mind a statement I made seven years ago," he said. When it was put to him that none of the abuse ever occurred he replied: "It happened and I've being waiting 25 years for this and I'm not going to let it go." The trial continues before Judge Tony Hunt and a jury of six men and seven women.

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