Brother accused of Sexual Abuse left in Africa
Coleman Legal LLP
Oct 11, 2020

In 2012, Br. Aidan Clohessy in the St. John of God’s Order was officially withdrawn from public ministry in Mzuzu, the third-largest city in Malawi after St John of God finally prompted a Gardaí investigation circling sexual abuse allegations made in 1998.

Br. Aidan Clohessy returned to Dublin and now has restricted access to children, due to a set of rules called the Covenant of Care.

However, the allegations of sexual abuse against Clohessy did not begin in 1998. Brother Aiden was the principal of St. Augustine, in Blackrock, County Dublin from 1970 to 1993.

St. Augustine is a school for boys with special needs. The first serious child-abuse allegation was made against Br. Aidan Clohessy in 1985 which unfortunately went unreported at that time. 

Instead, Brother Aiden was relocated to Malawi in Africa in 1993 where he had established mental and other health services for vulnerable people and children in Mzuzu. 

St John of God claimed that there were no complaints of abuse until 1996 and all complaints after 1996 were reported to Gardaí finally in 2012.

In 1997, Br. Aiden was instructed by the late Brother Fintan Brennan Whitmore, the Head of the Order at the time to not have any contact with the children, as reported by the Centre of Investigative Journalism Malawi (CIJM).

In 2002, payments of up to €1 million were paid to the Irish accusers of Br. Aiden was ordered by the state-established Residential Institution Redress Board.

St. John of God agreed to pay allegedly due to the “attractive proposition” of the indemnity they would receive and claims that there was no evidence of abuse despite the playout, published in CIJM’s article.

By 2003, there were 10 Irish allegations of abuse by Br. Aidan relating to his 23 years working in St. Augustine from former pupils.

Meanwhile, Br. Aidan continued his work in Africa and was still working with children there.

In an interview with the Irish Mail on Sunday (MoS) in 2018, through interviewing past receivers of care from the order in Malawi, it was revealed that Br. Aiden would collect vulnerable and young men from the streets and allowed them to stay in his home, where he would watch them shower. There were also allegations of beating and inappropriate contact.

It was also revealed through the interview and report by MoS and CIJM, that the Director of St. John of God in Malawi, name Charles Masulani alleges that he did not know of Br. Aidan’s ongoing abuse allegations in Ireland despite his weekly meeting with Br. Aidan.

The first serious child-abuse allegation was made against Br. Aidan Clohessy in 1985 which unfortunately went unreported at that time. 

However, in 2004, a spokesman from St. John of God testified that there were no abuse complaints until 1996, in a statutory inquiry into child abuse by the Ryan Commission, as revealed by the Irish Mail on Sunday. 

The cases of abuse allegations slowly rose to 14 abuse claims in 2011, which prompted St. John of Gods to conduct a risk assessment in which they concluded that Br. Aiden posed a “low risk” of abuse since he was not working directly with the children or was in a position of authority over the children. 

  • In 2012, all allegations of abuse were finally reported to the Gardaí, starting with the 1998 allegations against Br. Aiden. In 2012, Br. Aiden was finally removed from his public service in Malawi and returned to Ireland.
  • In 2014, a report claimed that there were up to 20 allegations made against the Br. Aidan, reported by the Irish Times

In December 2015, the order was reviewed by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church where St. John of Gods claimed that they fully cooperated.

The Order stated that “Up to 2012, the order fully accepts that its responses were not what they should have been in the reporting and management of cases.” as reported by the Irish Times.

All the allegations reviewed by the National Board of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church were also reported to Garda Síochána and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency in Ireland.

In January 2018, two more allegations of abuse from former pupils in St. Augustine came forward which prompted further investigation.

Since then, it has surfaced that members of the St. John of God Order in the Western European Province are facing up to 97 abuse claims involving 24 brothers, with Br. Aidan being the subject of the most complaints. Only five of the brothers are still alive today, as reported by CIJM.  

Despite the ongoing Garda investigation, there have been no arrests made or prosecution initiated in these cases.

The Order has released a statement saying, “While the order cannot comment on individual cases or on cases arising from unsubstantiated reporting, it is responding in accordance with its safeguarding policies and procedures and has reported the allegations to the relevant authorities and will co-operate as required.” and that “The St John of God Order reiterates its unreserved apology to any individual who has suffered any form of abuse while in its care,”  as reported by the Irish Times.

The order added that they would respond to and provide support for those who have been hurt while being in their care and it “would urge anyone who may have suffered abuse or who has a concern to come forward or to contact the relevant authorities” as relayed by the Irish Times.

If you have been involved in a sexual abuse experience, please contact Coleman Legal LLP. Our dedicated team is extensively experienced in handling cases of sexual abuse in a workplace and other environments and is ready to advise. If you have experienced abuse, such as child abuse or sexual and you have questions surrounding the incident, please contact our Sexual Abuse Case Team today at Coleman Legal to find out if you have potential action.

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