Brother's trail of abuse in school after school
By Eithne Donnellan
May 21, 2009
REPEAT OFFENDER: A FORMER Christian Brother who was sacked as principal of a primary school in Co Offaly after complaints were made that he was molesting boys was given a “glowing reference” on his departure from the school, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse found.
Its report states that despite the circumstances of his removal from Walsh Island National School, where he had worked from 1966 to 1969, the parish priest and school manager furnished John Brander (a pseudonym) with a reference stating he would “find it impossible to speak or write too highly” of his “complete dedication to his professional duties”. It also gave the impression he was leaving at his own request.
Mr Brander, whose real name is known from his subsequent court convictions as Donal Dunne, went on to become vice-principal of Presentation Convent in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, where another complaint was made by a father that his son was being sexually molested by him.
This resulted in his departure once more to take up a teaching position in another school. The head nun confirmed to the commission she too gave him “a good reference on his departure”.
The report states that this teacher’s inappropriate behaviour had come to the notice of the authorities from the time he began teaching in the 1940s after he trained as a Christian Brother.
When complaints were made to the effect that he was interfering with boys at the CBS in James’s Street, Dublin, he was asked by his superiors to look for a dispensation from his vows.
This he did and he was thus “able to leave the congregation apparently of his own volition and with an unblemished teaching record”.
He took up the position of principal of Lanesboro National School in Co Longford on a Monday, having been dispensed from his vows the previous Friday. “The question arises as to how he was able to secure this position, and who aided him in obtaining it,” the report says.
After three years in Longford from 1957 to 1960, where he also abused, he moved to Ballyfermot National School, Dublin, where he was again accused of indecent assault.
He then worked at Rath Mixed National School in Portlaoise from 1964 to 1966, where at least one parent complained to the Department of Education about his excessive corporal punishment in beating children about the head. Following an inspection, he was told corporal punishment should be administered only for grave transgression.
Mr Brander, according to the report, was convicted in the 1990s of a range of offences including sexual assault and indecent assault in respect of offences at Walsh Island National School and Presentation Convent in Castlecomer.
The commission said his sexual and/or physical abuse of children came to the knowledge of nuns, clergy, the Garda, the Department of Education and one of its inspectors, in addition to colleague teachers, but on each occasion he was able to continue his career.
“By choosing to take the easy way out, the persons and bodies with knowledge of Mr Brander’s activities must bear heavy responsibility for the damage he did to children throughout his career and following his retirement,” it said.
The report also says when a former pupil wrote to the department in 1982 to say his former abuser was now teaching in Tullamore, his letter was passed between various sections of the department before a decision to take no action was made.
Dunne, who retired in the mid-1980s, was convicted in relation to the abuse of pupils in 1995, 1998 and 2000.
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