By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — An investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and other violence by Christian Brothers at the Artane Industrial School in Dublin has mushroomed into one of the biggest probes of its kind ever, with about 140 former pupils from all over the world filing complaints.
New complaints are continuing to come into the 10-strong team of detectives based at Clontarf Garda station at the rate of three or four a week.
So far, up to 40 men — serving, retired or dead Christian Brothers — have been named in the complaints being made by former pupils of Artane, which closed in 1969. The allegations include horrific claims of abuse, including repeated buggery, of young pupils.
The investigation is expected to be followed by substantial compensation claims in the civil courts. Similar probes in America, Canada and Australia led to huge payouts by the order in those countries.
A spokesman for the Christian Brothers said the order wished to make it clear it was cooperating fully with the Garda inquiry and deeply regretted any "hurt" caused in any school or institution with which it has been associated.
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The spokesman said it issued a message and apology last March.
"This message was designed to reach out to people who had been hurt and we encouraged people to come forward," the spokesman said. "We welcome the fact that people have since done so. Again, we deeply regret the very fact that there is a need for this and we say sorry to anyone we have wronged."
One elderly Christian Brother was arrested and questioned last year. He was released without charge and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
It is understood that no further arrests will be made until the huge amount of detail in the complaints is fully sifted by gardai.
The allegations being made also involve other Christian Brother-run establishments in Salthill and Letterfrack, Co. Galway, and Tralee, Co. Kerry.
Thousands of boys, many of them orphaned or abandoned by poverty-stricken families, passed through Artane before it closed. Some of the allegations involve complaints dating as far back as the 1930s.
Former pupils have contacted gardai from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the U.S. and Australia. Some of the witnesses from abroad will shortly be flown to Ireland to swear affidavits for the detectives.
Det. Sgt. Paul Scott, who is heading the special investigation unit, said the bulk of the complaints were coming from Ireland and Britain. Most of the British complaints are from men living in Birmingham and London areas.
"We are now dealing with a very heavy workload due to the number of complaints and the amount of statements that have to be taken," Scott said. "Almost half the complaints received so far have come from outside the country."
A special telephone hotline ( 853-1000) has been set up for the investigation and Garda have issued appeals for any former residents or staff in Artane who wish to make complaints to come forward.