Probe of sex abuse at school to focus on Christian Brothers

SOME Christian Brothers who formerly served in St Joseph’s Industrial School, Tralee, are expected to be at the centre of a new Garda probe into sexual and physical abuse at the school.

Gardaí from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation have started an investigation which will also involve interviews with former residents of the school which closed in 1970. The investigating team, established following the publication of the Ryan Commission Report, has already contacted a number of the former residents of the school, including John Prior.

Mr Prior, who was sent to the school when he was a baby and was the person with the longest stay there, has welcomed the investigation.

Some of the brothers who were not named in the report are still alive and are expected to be the main focus of the investigation.

Interviews with former residents are expected to take place in the coming weeks and, it is understood, the circumstances surrounding the death of 15-year-old Joseph Pyke will be a key part of the investigation.

Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne is heading the investigation into claims in the Ryan Report to assess if criminal proceedings can be brought against the perpetrators of the abuse.

Meanwhile, tomorrow night, a Mass will be celebrated at the graveside of Joseph Pyke.

He died after an alleged savage beating while in the care of the Christian Brothers.

Joseph Pyke is buried at Rath Cemetery, Tralee, where the Mass will be said following a march through the streets of Kerry’s county town.

In 2006, the Child Abuse Commission heard the boy, an apprentice shoemaker, died in hospital on February 9, 1958, some days after being beaten by a brother at St Joseph’s.

The hospital, however, could not link his death to the beating and the cause of death was variously described as septicaemia and pneumonia.

The organiser of tomorrow’s events, Mr Prior, who spent over 14 years in the notorious industrial school and knew Joseph Pyke, said the march was not about any individual, or group.

“It is for everyone who has been affected by the industrial schools and a chance for them to show they were hurt by what happened,” he added.

Mr Prior also said he had made a promise to the dead boy to have a Mass said at his grave when former residents of institutions had been vindicated — as the Ryan Report had done.

He maintained the Mass would be a fitting follow-up to the report which revealed several cases of physical and sexual abuse at the Tralee institution.

Mr Prior will lead the march which is due to set off from the site of the industrial school, long since demolished, at 6.45pm.

Mass will be said by Fr Sean Hannafin, parish priest, St John’s, Tralee. People wishing to pay tribute to Joseph Pyke are being asked to bring a single flower to place on his grave.

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