Number of abuse contacts to Spiritan congregation approaches 500

Further allegations against Dominicans and Salesians

The number of people, mainly men, who have contacted the Spiritans concerning the sexual abuse of children at schools run by the congregation is approaching 500, a spokesman has said.

The majority of contacts have been made since November 6th, when RTÉ Radio 1 broadcast the Documentary on One: Blackrock Boys programme on the sexual abuse of brothers Mark (61) and David (58) Ryan at Willow Park school and Blackrock College in south Dublin.

“The figure for ‘contact’ – not all necessarily separate allegations – is now understood to be circa 480,” the spokesman said.

The Spiritans spokesman said that while abuse allegations were not broken down by school, to their knowledge Blackrock and Willow Park account for a substantial majority of allegations newly received.


Meanwhile, two men have contacted The Irish Times with new sexual abuse allegations involving a Salesian priest at Warrenstown Agricultural College in Co Meath and by a Dominican priest at Newbridge College in Co Kildare.

Dr Peter Bennett (78), from Blackrock, said: “The Spiritans, Jesuits, Benedictines, Vincentians, Carmelites, Augustinians, Christian Brothers, De La Salle Brothers, Dominicans, nuns, have all been identified as abusing children. But I haven’t seen anything about the Salesian Fathers. They should be added to the list.”

Dr Bennett said he was abused as a child by a cleric in Warrenstown Agricultural College. “I do not know the individual’s name. I was 11 years of age at the time.”

The abuse took place at the St John Bosco Club’s summer camp run by the Salesian Fathers at the beginning of the school holidays in 1956.

He recalls being “repeatedly abused by one of the clerics in Warrenstown. I don’t know his name. The abuse mainly involved masturbation but a more serious assault involved attempted penetration.”

The priest once brought him to his home in Dublin city where “my mother was honoured to be visited by a priest. He was entertained with the ‘good china’.”

Some years later, “in the early 1970s”, he attempted to report the abuse at Enfield Garda station in Co Meath. As he could not name the priest or, then, the dates on which the abuse took place, an older garda “read me the riot act; lectured me on the consequences of making false reports; and that I could be prosecuted. I remember leaving the police station disgusted and angry.”

Looking back, he said: “I was lucky. The camp would have lasted two to three weeks and then it ended. I got home.”

In a statement the Salesians of John Bosco Ireland said Dr Bennett’s allegations had been addressed by Phil Mortell, their designated person for child safeguarding, and that “it is not possible for him to release information that he does not have access to”.

They continued: “An allegation which goes back to 1956 without any named priest or identifying features, or inability to identify through a photo, makes it very difficult to speculate whom it might be. Added to this, is the fact that this is the only allegation of sexual abuse that we have received about any member of the Warrenstown community.”

They also pointed out that the summer camps were attended not only by Salesian priests in Warrenstown “but also by other priests who came over from England. At that stage, it was the Anglo-Irish Province.”

Ward (Edward) Walsh is 74 and lives in Tramore. He attended Newbridge College in Co Kildare, run by the Dominican congregation.

“The late Fr Cyprian Candon OP, aka ‘Jackie’, sexually abused me in Newbridge College in 1962 when he was the junior dean. I was 13 years old,” he said. “It was just before Easter. He conned me into being physically beaten by him, which was when the sexual abuse happened. He had a bedroom/study between the first and second-year dormitories to which he brought me after lights out.”

Fr Candon “was thankfully shipped off to Nagpur in India later that year. A short time later he was bounced back but had no role in the school. After dark he used to skulk around in the grounds outside the junior dormitories wearing a long black coat over his white habit. I have had many remembered nightmares about him over the years,” he said.

He wrote to Fr Candon after hearing him being interviewed on the topic of sexual abuse in 1994.

Mr Walsh was subsequently contacted by the Dominicans and assured that Fr Candon would never again have the opportunity to be alone with children.

Having written to the Dominican Provincial last January, he was visited by two representatives of the Dominican Safeguarding Office. “They were very compassionate and had no difficulty in admitting to Candon’s behaviour. They offered counselling etc, but stopped short of what I wanted which is a public apology for Candon.”

In response to a query from The Irish Times about Mr Walsh’s allegations against Fr Candon, the Dominican’s Safeguarding Office acknowledged its receipt and invited “any person who may have been abused by a member of the Dominican Order, at any time, to make contact with us on and to report any such matter to Tusla, Child and Family Agency and the gardaí.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times