Half a century for justice — businessman reveals impact of abuse by former Christian Brother

Former Christian Brother Thomas Caulfield. 
Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure

Former Christian Brother Thomas Caulfield. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure

A well-known Galway businessman said he had waited fifty years for his journey to justice to be completed, after a former Christian Brother who indecently assaulted him in the early 1970s was told he will be sentenced in March.

77-year-old Thomas Caulfield, from Castlerea, Co Roscommon, pleaded guilty last month to three charges, relating to offences carried out in 1972 and 1973. Galway Circuit Criminal Court heard how the abuse was perpetrated on the victim, Paul Grealish, while he was a fourth-class pupil at St Patrick’s CBS National School in Tuam.

Judge Brian O’Callaghan said that he would impose a sentence of nine months in prison for the first count, which related to offences carried out in September 1972. Similar jail terms would apply to the other counts. The Court acceded to a request by Caulfield’s legal team that a psychiatric report be considered. This will inform the decision as to whether the terms will be served concurrently or consecutively. The matter will be back before the Court in March.

Afterwards, Mr Grealish waived his right to anonymity to highlight what was done to him as a nine-year-old schoolboy and went on to outline the impact this had on his entire life, ruining his confidence, his academic endeavours and leaving him with suicidal thoughts.

“I was nine years of age and a happy child in Tuam when my fourth class teacher Brother Thomas Caulfield first sexually abused me. The abuse continued throughout that school year and took place in the classroom, during class, and in front of my classmates. The abuse has left me and my family irreparably scarred,” he said in his victim impact statement.

“I am here today to recount the impact of that abuse; to place the blame, the guilt, and all of the shame of that systematic sexual abuse back where it truly belongs with Thomas Caulfield, but especially to finally claim justice for my 9 and 10 year old self. I have waited 50 years for this day.“I have waived my anonymity today to highlight what was done to me; to identify the perpetrator Thomas Caulfield and to give hope and encouragement to others who have suffered similar abuse to seek support from family and friends - and the Justice system - as I have done.

Dark secret

“Furthermore, having carried the abuse like a dark secret for 50 years, I feel that’s it is finally time to share the load.

“I have also waived my anonymity to enable me call on the Christian Brothers to publicly explain why they allowed this to happen to a 9 and 10 year old boy, why they denied all liability and why they allowed their legal team behave disgracefully and re-traumatise me in 2009 and subsequently. He said he would like to thank his wife, family and close friends for the extraordinary support they have shown him throughout his journey to justice.

“I began Fourth Class in 1972 at age 9. I’m pretty sure I was the smallest boy in my class at approximately three and a half stone weight and four feet tall. I was into soccer and would play on the street, in the schoolyard and in our back garden. I liked watching cowboy movies. Looking back, I had a child’s understanding of good and evil. I knew watching a cowboy movie, who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. I knew that towards the end of the movie that John Wayne or the Cavalry would usually ride in, kill all the baddies and save the day. Brother Caulfield was my fourth class teacher. As religious people, my parents trusted Brother Caulfield, they trusted the Principal, Brother McQuillan and they trusted Tuam CBS, to take responsibility for my education and welfare during school hours. I trusted the people that my parents trusted.

“My Fourth Class school year was a year of absolute terror! Right from the start, Brother Caulfield ruled the class through fear and violence. The sexual abuse began at the start of the school year when I was aged 9 and continued throughout Fourth Class. The sexual abuse took place under the guise of correcting homework during class, and generally followed the same pattern. Brother Caulfield would call me to his desk to correct my homework. Brother Caulfield would pull me towards him by putting his arm around my waist. He would then put his hand down my trousers and sexually abuse me.”

“I was frozen in fear while Brother Caulfield sexually abused me. I couldn’t understand what was happening, and I couldn’t understand why it was happening to me. I felt absolutely terrified, totally helpless, and totally humiliated by the abuse. My ten year old brain could not process the trauma of this recurrent abuse by my teacher. I had no language to even describe what was being done to me. Brother Caulfield’s grooming method was violence. Violence and the threat of violence was used to ensure that I would be compliant and that I wouldn’t tell anyone.


“After a violent beating from the then principal of the school, Bro McQuillan, I realised then that the principal totally outranked my parents in terms of authority and that I couldn’t report Brother Caulfield’s behaviour to the Principal. I felt that I had absolutely no one to turn to for help. The world had become a confusing, frightening and unsafe place. Nothing made any sense to me anymore. At age ten, I formed the terrifying belief, that I was totally on my own in the world. I realised by then also, that the Cavalry simply weren’t coming.

After Fourth Class I buried the memory of the abuse as deeply as I possibly could. This was the only way I could survive. I continued Primary School, but by the end of Sixth Class I had slipped towards the bottom of the class and I was no longer the happy-go-lucky kid that had finished Third Class. I felt huge regret and loss over the abuse:- the loss of my innocence, the destruction of my belief systems, the loss of my school friends, the loss of honesty with my parents, the loss of my security, the loss of my education, the loss of my dignity, and the loss of my childhood.

In 1995, he confided in his wife Mary about the abuse and later his sister Joan convinced him to go to counselling. “I attended counselling on and off between 2005 and 2009 and found it extremely beneficial. However, the memories of the abuse were very raw. Each time that the memories came to the surface, it became more difficult to suppress them. As a result, I often had suicidal thoughts. I was very angry about the abuse and became determined to do something about it. I wanted justice.

“In 2005 I decided to take a Civil Case against Mr Caulfield and the Christian Brothers. We settled ‘out of court’ four years later, in March 2009. During the Civil Case, I had several independent psychological assessments, all of which concluded that I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I believe that the Christian Brothers and their legal team behaved absolutely disgracefully in the Civil Case. I was looking for justice. I was looking for an acknowledgement of the abuse. I was looking for an apology. What I got was a cheque and the threat of putting my parents on the stand in the High Court, if I did not accept it. The Civil Case was a harrowing experience. I found some of the tactics of Mr Caulfield’s Legal Team to be deliberately re-traumatising. I believe that they were hoping to quieten me, for once and for all. Their tactics worked. There was no acknowledgement of the abuse, and no remorse whatsoever. I felt like I was back where I started.

HSE letter

In April 2013, I received a letter from HSE Dublin North. In the letter, the HSE explained that they were vetting Thomas Caulfield for a teaching position which he had applied for, and my name had popped up due to the Civil Case. I met the HSE representative in Dublin, where I told her what Mr Caulfield had done to me. I felt that I had to do everything in my power to protect other children from the risk that I believed Mr Caulfield posed. Mr Caulfield wanting to take up another teaching position was the burning platform I needed, to finally make a criminal complaint.

Because I had been failed by the education system, I naturally had misgivings about fully trusting the Gardaí, and the Criminal Justice System. Despite this, I contacted Mill Street Garda Station in Galway and made a Criminal Complaint about Thomas Caulfield. I was assigned to Garda Sinéad Cunniffe who very sympathetically took my statement and suggested that I seek support from Galway Rape Crisis Centre. I contacted GRCC who referred me to one of their counsellors. I have found the counselling to be absolutely essential to my recovery. I have also benefited from the support and advice from Galway Rape Crisis Centre.

In 2017, four years after signing my statement, I was informed that the DPP had preferred charges and that Mr Caulfield had been formally charged.

I have carried the sexual abuse like a dark secret for the last 50 years. The abuse ruined my education and it had the potential to completely derail my entire life. It has left me and my family irreparably scarred.

My journey to justice has been incredibly difficult. However, getting justice is the only way I believe that I can fully process the trauma of the abuse, and to get some kind of closure.

I hope that by getting justice today, it will also help to ‘pave the way’ for other victims to get help, and to get justice for themselves.

2020 was a particularly difficult year for my family. We lost both of my parents and my brother Martin, who all passed away within a few months. At that point I was already waiting three years for a trial date, and the anxiety around the trial compounded my grief. However, I knew that my parents and brother would want me to ‘stay the course’ and to complete my journey towards justice.

I’m only sorry that my Mum and Dad, and my brother Martin, aren’t here today, on the day that the cavalry are due to arrive.

I sincerely hope that this was also the day, that I can move on from feelings of guilt and shame, and to finally hear acknowledgement that all of that guilt and shame belong to Mr Thomas Caulfield.


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