The Raw Nerve
Christian Brother sentenced over abuse
25 November 2003 18:33
was a cook in St Joseph's, Letterfrack,
and from the time he arrived there in 1959 at the age of 27, until the
institution closed in 1974, when he was 42, he systematically molested,
beat, and buggered little boys, aged from 11 to 14, who were sent to work in
his kitchen. The accused, who is still a stout,
strong man given his age, was originally charged with 140 counts of buggery
and indecent assault involving his victims over three decades but he pleaded
guilty this week to 25 sample counts, including two charges of buggery, and
23 charges of indecent assault ..... The assaults were of a violent, sexual
nature and were perpetrated in fear. For some of the victims, the violent
experience was their introduction to sexual experience and was committed by
a minder. Some of the victims, the judge said, had travelled long distances
and the case for some of them marked the end of a journey and brought some
sort of closure on their life to date.
71-year-old Christian Brother Maurice Tobin has been given a 12-year jail
sentence for sexually abusing 25 boys at the Letterfrack Industrial
School in Co Galway between 1959 and 1974. Four years of his sentence
were suspended by Judge Harvey Kenny, who took into account the fact that
Tobin had pleaded guilty, his age and his state of health. Judge Kenny
said that Tobin had been involved in violently sexually assaulting the
boys and he wondered why this sex abuse was allowed to go unchecked.
In a statement, the Christian Brothers said they deeply regretted the hurt
and pain caused to those who were abused by Brother Tobin. The
Congregation said it was greatly saddened by his actions, and offered its
sincere apologies to those who were abused and to their families.
The garda team involved in the investigation said it is examining further
cases of alleged sex abuse by others at the former industrial school.
Galway Circuit Court had heard that Maurice Tobin, of North Circular Road
in Dublin, worked in the kitchens and on the farm at St Joseph's
Industrial School from 1959 until it closed down in 1974.
Tobin was born in Mitchelstown in Co Cork and joined the Irish Christian
Brothers at the age of 15. He pleaded guilty to what was described
as 'a shocking litany' of sexual abuse - 23 cases of indecent assault and
two of buggery. In statement read to the court, the former pupils
described how they were abused over a long period of time in the kitchens,
in storerooms, the dormitory and in farmyard buildings. Sixteen of Tobin's
victims were in court today. Seven gave evidence that their lives had been
destroyed. They described how they had become involved in alcohol and drug
abuse, attempted to commit suicide and found it almost impossible to lead
- - - - - - -
ON February 16, 1966, 11-year-old Francie Shanley was taken from his
home in Longford to the local District Court, writes Brian McDonald. A
judge ordered him to Letterfrack until he was 16. Gardai drove him
to the Connemara institution immediately. His offence? "My mother
couldn't look after me - we just had no money," he said yesterday. He was
terrified when sent to the kitchen to help Brother Tobin. Everybody feared
him and the fear became almost unbearable when the cook put his arms
around him in the kitchen.
"He said to me 'Don't worry Frank, I'll look after you'. He opened his
cassock and took out his penis . . ." He was abused 16 times by Brother
Tobin. He went home for two weeks in the summer, but his mother
would not listen when he tried to tell her what was happening. In later
life he met a good woman, but he put her through hell. He was also
terribly strict on his children, because he did not want them to end up in
a place like Letterfrack.
In court he said he laughed when he heard Brother Tobin prayed for his
victims. "I don't forgive them (the Brothers). I don't forgive the State,"
he said. He calls the 11-year-old Francie from his past the
'young fella'. Asked if he had closure on the abuse, he said: "There's
just a small bit of closure for the young fella."
Dublin-based decorator, Jim Lyons - another victim - said he was happy
with the 12-year term as he thought it would be a lot less. He said others
would find it hard to understand effects of the abuse and just wished he
did not have to endure it. "You awoke with fear in your throat and
you went to bed with fear. The brutality was constant - you were just part
of the system there. There was constant physical and sexual abuse.
"Today it was good to see him in court and to hear the sentence. But I
still have a lot of anger inside me," he said.
Another victim said when he got out of Letterfrack he telephoned
the Brothers to talk about what had happened. It was the second time he
heard a Christian Brother curse. He was told he was a "f****** liar".
He later went off the rails and was addicted to drink and drugs for 20
A CHRISTIAN Brother who perpetrated a reign of sexual and physical
terror against 25 young boys at the Letterfrack Reformatory in Connemara
was given a 12-year jail term.
Judge Harvey Kenny said he would suspend the final four years of the
sentence imposed on Maurice Tobin (71) of North Circular Road, Dublin, in
light of his age and his admission of guilt. Galway Circuit Court
heard the accused was a cook at the industrial school. Boys were regularly
sent to help him with kitchen duties, and nobody could enter without
Tobin's permission. Tobin would come up behind victims in the
kitchen, put his arms around them and feel inside their trousers before
carrying out further sexual acts. One of the victims told gardai
Tobin pulled down his trousers and buggered him in the kitchen. The pain
was terrible, "like being split wide open", he said. One of his
victims described him as a lunatic, a "madman". All his victims were
terrified of him. Another of those abused recalled Tobin opening his
cassock, exposing himself and ejaculating against him. One recalled
being sent to the kitchen to help Tobin. If he was unhappy with his work,
he would catch his testicles and squeeze until he was red in the face with
pain. He also recalled being stripped and beaten by Tobin with a leather
strap. Another boy was punched in the stomach and the back if he did
not do things correctly. Many of the victims told of feeling helpless and
being unable to tell anyone. One said he knew that if he reported what
Tobin had done to him, he would be beaten. A boy who arrived in 1964
said he was asked to clear the boiler when Tobin came up behind him and
lifted him off the ground with one arm before abusing him. "I was
speechless with fear," he said. Another victim buggered by Tobin told
gardai his arm was bent behind his back prior to the assault. He also
recalled Tobin going to the showers and telling boys to take off swimming
togs "in order to wash properly". Many of the victims had broken
marriages, had got into trouble with the law, became dysfunctional or had
problems with alcohol. Many were receiving mental treatment.
Det Garda Hugh McClafferty said Tobin had been arrested in June 2001 and,
after an hour, had volunteered to tell the truth. The court heard Tobin
was born in Mitchelstown in 1932, joined the Christian Brothers at 14 and
was professed at 25. He worked in Letterfrack from 1959 to 1974. He later
worked in Swords, Co Dublin before moving to St Patrick's Nursing Home
until 2002. Cross-examined by Patrick Gageby SC for the
accused, Det Garda McClafferty agreed Tobin told him Letterfrack was a
very tough place and that he was sorry for what he had done. He said he
believed the accused was remorseful. Judge Harvey Kenny commended
the victims for coming to court, and said justice required that he impose
a custodial sentence over the assaults.
Meanwhile, an apology from the Christian Brothers to Tobin's victims was
rejected by some of the victims present for the Galway hearing. In a
statement, the Christian Brothers said they deeply regretted the hurt
caused to the victims. "We are greatly saddened by his actions and
offer our sincere apologies to those who were abused and to their families,"
One of the victims, Frank Shanley of Boyle, Co Roscommon, said: "We lost
our innocence, everything. I don't forgive them." Another, Jim Lyons, said
children should never have been abused in the way he was. "Children should
be protected by the Government. I don't know if I can go on."
Hell's Kitchen lair that housed evil predator
the boys unfortunate enough to end up in the dreaded St Joseph's
Industrial School in north-west Connemara, being assigned to Brother
Maurice Tobin meant a trip into their own version of Hell's Kitchen,
writes Brian McDonald. The Letterfrack grapevine had it that the
cook from Co Cork was a man to be avoided at all costs. But many
vulnerable youngsters had no choice when ordered to Tobin's lair. Supt
Tony Dowd, who has overseen a five-year probe into the voluminous
allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Letterfrack, described it as
an "extremely harshly-run institution". Certified an industrial school in
1884, St Joseph's continued as a residence of incarceration for young
offenders until 1974.
Young boys were sent there for a range of misdemeanours and for not
attending school. One victim said the boys were "bet" out of bed in the
morning before Mass. They attended school from 9am until about 3pm, after
which they were assigned duties including farm work and carpentry. The
boys rarely had enough to eat, the victim recalled. Seeking out food was
fraught with danger, as it meant either going to the kitchen or pursuing
some other risky course of action.
Tobin used food as a "reward" for those who succumbed to his will and, for
many, the Letterfrack experience was a supreme test of survival. Even in
bed at night, they were not free from the clutches of the sexually
demanding cook. Over 30 years later, the vulnerable boys are now men and
Tobin looks anything but the sexual predator and overbearing bully he once
was. In court he sat quietly inside one of the doors of the main
Galway courtroom. He remained motionless for long periods, waiting for the
catalogue of shame to unfold. As details of his reign of sexual terror
began to emerge, he became uneasy and shifted in his chair. He focused on
a spot on the floor and did not look up.
As sentence was passed by Judge Harvey Kenny, Tobin got to his feet as
required and moved a few paces towards the bench. He showed no obvious
emotion as the 12-year term was handed down. Afterwards, he was led
from the courtroom by a prison officer and his victims poured out behind
him. One shouted down the stairs after the accused that he was a pig.