Former primary teacher probed over historic beating allegations
28th May 2022
A former teacher at a primary school in Bray, Co Wicklow, is under Garda investigation after up to 30 pupils made statements of complaint about allegedly being subjected to severe physical abuse in the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition, the group of alleged victims have now made a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission as they are dissatisfied with the response of the Garda investigation.
- It is alleged the former teacher at the centre of the probe severely beat children on a regular basis with implements including golf clubs and frequently banged their heads against blackboards and walls.
It is also claimed in statements to gardaí by former pupils that the teacher regularly “punched and kicked them” and picked them up by their ears until they passed out.
When contacted, Garda headquarters confirmed that the matter is under criminal investigation, saying in a statement: “An Garda Síochána continue to investigate a number of allegations of physical abuse in Bray in the 1970s and are appealing to any persons with information or who may have been affected to contact them at Bray garda station.”
Some of the complainants say the alleged abuse led them to be unable to continue their education into second level, impacted their personal relationships in later life and affected their employment prospects.
Corporal punishment was permitted in Irish schools until 1982. However, what has been outlined to gardaí in Bray goes far beyond what was allowed under law at the time, leading to this case becoming the subject of a Garda investigation.
One of the complainants, Seán Martin, who attended the school from 1966 when he was seven until 1971, travelled from Manchester last year to make a statement to gardaí.
Mr Martin, who has been appointed as spokesman for the complainants, said the group of men, now in their 50s and 60s, began sharing their experiences about the teacher in a social media group in 2019.
So many men came forward with “horror stories” about the former teacher, who taught at the school for over a decade and is now aged in his 80s, that the men decided to form an action group and alert the authorities.
“I’ve memories as a child of gardaí at the school over him on occasion, and parents were often up complaining. We were all in complete dread of this man. But it was a different time,” Mr Martin told the Sunday Independent.
“He could target you at any moment, for nothing, we were all in complete fear.
“The beatings were severe. One of his favourite things to do if you were running down the corridor, was to trip you up with a golf club and then belt you with it while you lay on the ground.
“Another of his tricks was to pick you up by the ears and twist them until you passed out with the pain. Another thing he often did was grab you under the armpits and twist and pinch your skin, which causes unbelievable pain. We don’t know if he got sexual gratification from the abuse he inflicted.”
Mr Martin said he was “one of the lucky ones” compared to some of his schoolmates, who have complained of being so damaged by the teacher that they could not continue with schooling, subsequently struggled to find employment, and were left with permanent mental scars.
On behalf of the action group in 2020, Mr Martin made a complaint about the former teacher to the Department of Education. The matter was then referred to An Garda Síochána and Tusla, with the former launching a criminal investigation.
“I travelled to Bray to make my statement about my experience to gardaí in the summer of last year. Several other men have also made statements. There are around 30 men willing to make statements.
“All of these people’s details have been given to gardaí, but they haven’t contacted them all yet. We were promised the file would go to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by the end of April, but this does not seem to have happened. We feel the investigation is not being taken seriously by gardaí.”
There were garda delays in taking some of the alleged victims’ statements due to the pandemic, he added, and there have also been a succession of different gardaí involved in the case, complicating communication.
“We just feel at this point that gardaí do not seem to care and we cannot find out what the status of the Garda investigation is,” Mr Martin said.
“Time is marching on. This man is in his 80s and we are anxious that this case be prosecuted as soon as possible or at least be considered by the DPP.
“But we were told by a garda in Bray that his age would be a factor in determining whether he is prosecuted.
“We made it clear that he did not consider the age of his victims when beating us, so why should his age be a consideration in deciding if he should be prosecuted?”
Mr Martin recently made a complaint to the Garda watchdog about the investigation at Bray station.
“We do not even know if this man has been questioned yet,” he said.
“We just want some form of justice, even for this man to be arrested, that would be some kind of justice for us.
“There are victims who were told by gardaí 18 months ago that they would be in touch to take their statements, but they still haven’t. We just want our case to be taken seriously and investigated properly.”
The group of men are planning a protest outside Bray garda station on June 18 to highlight their concerns.