The superior general of the Religious Sisters of Charity, Sister Una O'Neill, has stated the congregation would not apologise for what occurred in St Joseph's orphanage in Kilkenny. Nor would the congregation align itself with the public apologies of other congregations to residents of other institutions where abuse had taken place, she said.
She was responding yesterday to questions from Marian Shanley of the investigation committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse at a phase-three public hearing.
Ms Shanley asked Sr O'Neill whether she had "difficulty apologising for what occurred at Kilkenny" and, if so, whether this was because she "believed the responsibility lay with the perpetrators".
Sr O'Neill compared the situation to that of a parent whose child was abused in the home. The parent would not apologise to the child for such abuse but would take him or her in their arms and say sorry, she said. The congregation had expressed regret and deep sorrow "absolutely" for what had happened "on four occasions", she said.
They would not apologise, however, as "in our particular situation the abuse was perpetrated by people in our employment".
Earlier she agreed with Jeremy Maher, counsel for former residents, that in 1990 a member of the congregation left St Joseph's following an incident of severe corporal punishment.
She agreed the sister concerned was sent to the missions in Zimbabwe and that a superior in Ireland, Sr Frances Ignatius Fahy, sent a letter to colleagues there advising that the sister not be placed in charge of children.
In December 1997, David Murray pleaded guilty to buggery and gross indecency involving 10 boys at St Joseph's between 1971 and 1976. In all, he faced 271 charges involving boys at a number of institutions and his two adopted sons. At trial, he faced 34 sample charges and was sentenced to 10 years.
In June 1998, another care worker at St Joseph's, Myles Brady, pleaded guilty to seven charges of indecent assault on four males there in 1976 and 1977. He was sentenced to four years and died in jail.
In January 1999, Teresa Connolly, another carer at St Joseph's, pleaded guilty to seven charges of indecent assault on four boys at the orphanage between 1966 and 1974. She received a suspended sentence.
Sr O'Neill couldn't explain why, after Murray was dismissed from St Joseph's by then resident manager Sr Joseph Conception, following complaints by boys,there was no mention of these complaints in a reference Sr Conception sent to Scoil Ard Mhuire in Lusk, where Murray was subsequently employed.