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Blackrock College

Close to 300 former pupils report abuse by clergy and lay staff at Spiritan schools

An update into historical abuse was released today.

CLOSE TO 300 people have reported instances of being abused by lay staff members and clergy at Spiritan schools, with the vast majority having occurred at Blackrock College and Willow Park Junior School.

The Blackrock College Union of past pupils released an update on its website today in relation to historical abuse suffered by former pupils of schools run by the Spiritan Order. These include Blackrock College and Willow Park, as well other schools such as Templeogue College and Rockwell in Tipperary. 

According to the update (from the Restore Together group), to date 49 Spiritan clergy and 12 lay members of staff have been reported for abuse by over 290 people. Two priests have been jailed, though many of the perpetrators are dead.

“The vast majority of cases relate to Willow Park and Blackrock College,” the group said. 

“As with many institutions involved with educating children in Ireland, Spiritan schools have instances where sexual abuse was inflicted on innocent children by those entrusted to support their welfare and education.

The abuse of children in Spiritan schools and its consequences are still to be fully dealt with.

It emerged in late 2022 that following an RTÉ radio documentary that 233 people had made allegations of abuse against 77 Irish Spiritans in ministries throughout Ireland and abroad. Of those, 57 people alleged they were abused on the Blackrock College campus.

The leader of the Spiritans in Ireland, Father Martin Kelly, issued an apology in November 2022 to all victims on behalf of the order:

“On behalf of the Spiritan Congregation of Ireland, I want to express my deepest and most sincere sorrow to every person who was abused by a member of the Spiritans, or by a staff member, in any of our schools,” Fr Kelly said at the time.

Following the revelations, Restore Together was set up to advocate on behalf of victim/survivors. The group says it works with the Spiritan Order to “bring healing to those who suffered as children and continue to suffer as adults”.

It said today that since spring 2021 it has been “working to raise awareness of the extent and impact of the sexual abuse in the schools and to extend understanding of what happened”.

“We have proposed victim-centred actions to the Spiritans for trauma-informed solutions to help rectify past transgressions. For many victim/survivors, the issue of abuse is not historic. It continues to shroud every day, as it has entire lives.”

A restorative justice template has been following in order to make “the path to reconciliation and healing easier”.

“We are trying to spread the message as widely as possible that, for those impacted, there is help available, you are not alone, you were not to blame.”

The group said that about 50 individual restorative justice meetings have been held to date, where those impacted with the abuse met with those currently in charge of the places where the abuse happened. 

This was in order to “discuss openly and forthrightly the, now mostly dead, perpetrators and the culture of abuse”.

“These meetings allow any questions and concerns that victim/survivors have to be raised in an honest and safe environment,” the Blackrock College Union said.

Approximately 200 people have made contact with a view to engaging in the Restorative Justice process.

Restore Together has also called for a planned Redress Scheme for victims to be established immediately. The group also states that a documentation and truth telling process should be set up, as well as a memorialisation of what happened.

A preliminary inquiry into the abuse has been established by the Government. 

Last year gardaí submitted 13 files relating to victims of historical sexual abuse at schools run by the Spiritan congregation to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Jesuit school abuse

One of the survivors of the abuse at Blackrock College that was detailed in the RTÉ documentary, David Ryan, spoke about another experience of being abused by a priest at another school – St. Declan’s special school in Donnybrook, Dublin. 

He told RTÉ’s Drivetime programme that Father Declan Casey, who was a teacher at the school, abused him daily, five days a week for nine months in 1974 and 75. 

He said that Casey would take him to a seperate room on his own for “reading lessons”. The door would be locked and Casey would grope David Ryan, who was 12 years old at the time.

“My parents wanted me to go there because I was severely dyslexic and they wanted me to go there to get a bit more help before I went into secondary school. So I went there to get help with reading, writing and everything,” he said.

“Father Casey used to take me out for so called ‘special reading’ lessons up in his room. And every day I used to go to his room. He’d lock his door and he put the key in his pocket.

“It started off slowly, but he progressed. He’d always have me sitting on his knee. I was in short trousers, I remember that. And I’d sit on his knee and he would basically start licking my ear lobes, just fondling me, groping me.

“And this just progressed every single day. It got more and more intense. He basically was abusing my body. Full stop.

“He never physically raped me, like the others. But he abused me and the usual thing is, ‘This is our secret, nobody else has to know. If you do tell anybody, you will pay for it. They were his words. I was terrified of the man, absolutely terrified.”

Casey would also often take him home from school in his car, where he also abused him. 

Ryan said he never told his parents about what he suffered at St. Declan’s. He was to afraid.

In February of this year, the Jesuits said that Casey, who’s now deceased, had been the subject of 17 complaints of child sexual abuse. The complaints were received between 1975 and 2023 and related to events dating from the 1950s through to 1977.

The order revealed that complaints of child sexual abuse against Casey weren’t initially acted upon by another deceased Jesuit, Father Paul Andrews back in 1975.

Father Casey moved between schools in subsequent years.

Ryan returned to the school earlier this year where the Jesuits read an official apology to him.

“It’s what I wanted for myself, for my parents, for my brothers, and since that day I’ve not heard a single word. They never phone me to see how I am, how I’ve been doing. It’s like, we’ve done this for him now, brush it under the carpet, pat on the back and get out the door.”

Ryan said he has begun to have flashbacks recalling more details of the times that Casey abused him. 

“It was as if it were yesterday,” he said of returning to the place where he was abused.

He said the visit was “horrendous, just very upsetting” and that going back there was “very difficult, but I had to do it”. 

He described the Jesuits’ apology as “a lot of big words”, adding that “they can’t understand what I’ve been through”.

He said he would be “more than willing” to meet with The Jesuits again to discuss the issue.

The Jesuits said that prioritising the defence of the accused and the order’s reputation above the concerns of those who had been abused was a source of “deep shame”.


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