Alleged abuse in care home investigated

 

Gardaí in Waterford are conducting an investigation into allegations that members of a religious order sexually abused adults in their care who had intellectual disabilities.

The allegations cover the period between 1966 and 1990.

The investigation is focused on St Michael's Centre, a residential facility that was run by the Brothers of Charity Services at their Belmont Park campus on the main Waterford-New Ross road.

The allegations that led to the investigation involve current and former members of the Brothers of Charity congregation.

Gardaí are now in the process of trying to trace people who were in care in St Michael's during the 24-year period covered by the allegations. It is understood that upwards of 80 adults are likely to be interviewed.

A spokesperson for the Brothers of Charity in the south-eastern region said that they were aware that members of the Garda were investigating the allegations relating to St Michael's Centre on the Belmont Park campus.

St Michael's Centre closed 12 years ago and it is understood that the Brothers of Charity are co-operating fully with the investigation, which is one of the largest of its kind to have been undertaken in the Waterford area.

The lay management team that now operates the services is understood to have written to current care staff and relatives of those who are likely to be interviewed by gardaí to advise them of the situation.

Supt Mick McGarry confirmed that an investigation was under way, but he emphasised that it would take some time to complete due to the number of people who would have to be interviewed.

"We are carrying out an investigation that is going back some years," he said. "Unfortunately, the questioning of those who lived in those residences at the time can be difficult. We are also trawling through records to talk to people who were employed at the location to see if there is any foundation to these allegations."

Detectives are attempting to draw up a list of all those who lived and worked at the centre between 1966 and 1990.

"The difficulty is tracking down all those who are still alive, as well as those who are still in care," Supt McGarry said. "We have interviewed a number of people and will also be interviewing a number of those against whom allegations have been made. I am aware that, so far, one \ has been interviewed."

A relative of a man who lived at St Michael's during the period covered by the investigation confirmed that he had been written to by the Brothers of Charity Services to inform him that a Garda investigation was under way. The man, who did not wish to be named, said that while his relative had not yet been interviewed, he had tried to prepare him for the likely procedure.

"I've tried to tell him what he can expect when he is interviewed. Obviously, this is a very serious matter, and I'm sure he'll help as much as he can, but I just hope this whole thing doesn't upset him now, because he seemed to be going well for the last while.

"We would also like to know what happens next. Will the guards be calling to the house he's in now or will he have to go and see them at the station? That could be even harder for him to deal with."