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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

Michael O’Donoghue

Michael O’Donoghue was born in Aldershot in 1942. When aged around 2 or 3, he was placed in the care of Nazareth House in Romsey, Hampshire. He recalled that while at Nazareth House, he was beaten by one of the nuns and would cry in the toilets. He described it as a “brutal” place, where he was caned regularly for wetting the bed and was constantly hungry. He also described being thrown down the stairs by one of the nuns and suffering a serious head injury.

Additionally, while at Nazareth House in Romsey, Michael was sexually abused by a male teacher who would either come into the dormitory at night-times and rape him, or would take him to an isolated area and abuse him there. This happened every week for about a year. Michael was also violently sexually abused by an older boy at the home who abused a lot of other children as well. Because of the beatings, the humiliation and the sexual abuse, he remembered thinking that he wanted to die.

Michael’s mother tried to take him back from Nazareth House when she married an American serviceman. However, she wasn’t able to do so and he was moved to London. Michael’s understanding is that the nuns at Nazareth House lied to his mother and said that he had been adopted. He was told on numerous occasions that he was an orphan and had no family, even though he knew that not to be true. He ran away and spent over a year living on the streets in Southampton, during which time he experienced what he recalled as the happiest moment from his childhood – being given a sticky bun and a mug of cocoa in a bakery.

He was later taken to Nazareth House in Hammersmith, London, where he lived for a year before being returned to Romsey. Michael stayed there for two years, during which time he did not suffer any sexual abuse – he recalled that he was too angry by that time and “would not let anybody get near me”. During his time at Nazareth House, they were required to write letters home saying that they were happy, by copying what the nuns wrote on the blackboard.

Michael was migrated to Australia in 1953 and travelled on the ship with Father Stinson. He was taken to Clontarf, and upon arrival found the Christian Brothers to be scary.

In terms of physical abuse, on only his second day, he was beaten for wetting the bed, and the children were told that if any complaints against the Brothers got out, they would be flogged. The Brothers also organised boxing matches between the children, and selected older boys were given total authority to beat the younger ones. Michael recalled being beaten by Brother Doyle for not working hard enough, and seeing a little boy beaten to within an inch of his life by Brother Mohen. Brother Doyle organised special punishment days, during which he would make them watch horses being killed unless they owned up to accusations made by the Brothers.

Regarding other conditions, Michael recalled that the animals were better fed than the children who resorted to getting scraps out of the bins. They had very limited clothing, were made to do heavy physical labour and were given very limited education. He recalls a group of nuns who came out from England to see the children and saw some of them roasting a cat.

Michael recalled that Brother Doyle was obsessed with “fiddling” and would ask him who he had been fiddling with, beating him until he provided names. In response to his bed wetting, Michael was given electric shocks to his penis.

Michael was sexually abused by a theatre manager who would visit Clontarf and fondle the children. Michael also described a teacher as having a “very bad habit” of grabbing children on the backside and recalled that the teacher tried to rape him.

Michael described Brother Murphy as a “sadistic paedophile” who fondled and raped him, and would do the same to other children. This went on for years and according to Michael:

“I was so scared of him I used to close my eyes and try to disappear.”

Finally, Michael described being taken by Brother Angus, along with other children, to a farm where he was raped, leaving him too frightened to move. Michael was threatened not to tell anybody.

In general, Michael was too frightened to report what was happening because of the fear of being beaten, but he did tell one woman whom he sometimes stayed with in Perth – however, she did not believe him.

After Michael had left Clontarf, Brother Murphy was charged with criminal offences in respect of sexual abuse, but he was not prosecuted because the judge considered that he had “diminished circumstances”.

Michael joined a class action against the Christian Brothers but said that he never got them into court. He said that modest payoffs from the redress scheme sometimes made him feel that he had sold out, because nobody was properly held to account and he felt like he was being silenced.

“Living with the injustice of perpetrators who always got away with it still makes me burn with anger".

He felt frustrations with delays in the criminal justice system and said that:

“The organisations and governments who made the policy need to be held to account for what happened to me. Redress payments can make life easier, but until the governments who set up the child deportation scheme and the Catholic Church, in whose care I was abused, are held accountable, I will never feel able to let the matter rest or have a chance for proper recovery".

Michael said that he had been looking for his family since 1964 and that the Child Migrants Trust provided him with significant help.

“My mother died earlier this year, in her 90s, without any answers to why her son was treated with such cruelty by those we are supposed to be able to trust. We could have had a lifetime together, but instead we both endured the terrible loneliness and pain of the loss of family. I have lived a lifetime without identity and borne the terrible legacy of being a British child who was abandoned by my country".[1]



  1. O’Donoghue 3 March 2017 83-168; CMT000330_001, CMT000331_001-003
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