Priest jailed for abusing boys
A 71-year-old retired missionary priest from North Cork has been jailed for three years for sexually abusing two boys at a Co Cork boarding school where he taught in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Tadhg O Dalaigh, a native of Boherbue but with an address at Woodview, Mount Merrion Avenue, Dublin, pleaded guilty earlier this year to five counts of abusing one of the boys at Colaiste an Chroi Naofa in Carrignavar in 1982 and 1983
And in June, O Dalaigh, a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, was convicted by a unanimous verdict of a jury following a two day trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court of sexually assaulting a second boy at the school in 1979.
Last week, Judge Donagh McDonagh sentenced O Dalaigh to five years in jail with two years suspended for the abuse of the boy whose complaint went to trial while he imposed a three year concurrent sentence for the abuse of the other boy to which O’Dalaigh pleaded guilty.
During his trial, O Dalaigh admitted abusing ten boys while teaching at the school between 1969 and 1974 and between 1977 and 1984. He had given a list of his victims to his superiors when they confronted him in 1995 but he had denied abusing the victim in the trial.
“I would prefer to plead guilty (if it had happened) and move on, get the thing over and done with, but I did not, I did not touch him… I don’t know if he was abused or not but I certainly did not abuse him,” he told the jury.
His counsel, Tom Creed SC told the jury that his client had served three years in jail after he pleaded guilty in 1995 to ten counts of indecently assaulting another boy.
However the jury of ten men and two women disbelieved O Dalaigh’s denial of abusing the more recent complainant and took just two hours to unanimously find him guilty of the single charge of indecently assaulting the boy on a date between March 1st and April 30th 1979.
Last week, Judge McDonagh noted from extensive background reports prepared for the sentencing hearing that O’Dalaigh’s ministry as a priest was now confined to celebrating mass within the community house of his religious order in Dublin.
He also noted that O’Dalaigh had taken active responsibility in managing his risk and adhering to a management plan in this regard which effectively monitored his every moment. This regime was tantamount to life in an open prison, he said.
At an earlier sentencing hearing in November, Sgt Anne Marie Guiney of Glanmire Garda Station, who investigated the case, presented victim impact statements on behalf of the two most recent complainants who are now both middle aged men.
One man told in his Victim Impact Statement, read by Sgt Guiney, how his last happy memory was sitting in a friend’s bedroom at the age of 16 without a care in the world listening to Genesis’s ‘Follow You Follow Me’.
His next memory was of going boarding school in Carrignavar and waking up on a Sunday night in Easter 1979 in the sick bay of the school being sexually assaulted by O Dalaigh. He pretended to be asleep until it was over because he went into deep shock.
Later in life he experienced what he described as an emotional collapse. “Part of me felt everyone knew. That has stayed with me. It was difficult to trust, difficult for me to be alone in male company, difficult to go to the doctor or dentist.
“I felt I was going to commit suicide. The court case was incredibly difficult. A lot of friends and family don’t know I am here today. I have no close friends. I have always felt unworthy,” he told the court in his victim impact statement.
He said that it was only with the birth of his son and the sense that his son looked at him and saw him as a good man that he began to rediscover himself and lose the overwhelming shame he felt for many years. “It is not my shame, it is Fr O’Dalaigh’s shame,” he said.
Sentencing last week, Judge McDonagh said it would be trite to say that the lives of the two men were blighted when they were in fact destroyed by O’Dalaigh’s surreptitious crimes. Their later struggles with alcohol abuse was no surprise, he said
“I think it is fair to say the assessment of Tadhg O’Dalaigh’s condition is in marked contrast to the condition of the two injured parties, both of whom continue to suffer, one severe post-traumatic stress and one severe personal and emotional problems including suicidal ideation.
“Notwithstanding the positive aspect of his management of his life and his age, I think it is absolutely essential that a term of imprisonment must follow,” said Judge McDonagh,
“I do not wish to close off all aspects of hope in relation to the perpetrator. I will suspend the last two years,” added the judge -on condition O’Dalaigh continue to follow his current monitored regime for the rest of his life.
Judge McDonagh said that purpose of the order where he suspended the final two years of the term on the undertaking by O Dalaigh to continue to live a restricted life under supervision was to ensure that “he presents no threat to any child in any circumstances whatsoever.”
Following the case, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart issued a statement apologising for the hurt caused by O Dalaigh. “We offer our deepest apologies for the hurt caused and we hope the court process will assist them in some way in dealing with this most serious breach of trust. We are also conscious of the upset which has been visited on the families of those who have been so wrongly abused.