Former priest Tony Walsh gets one year sentence for sexual assault of child
Former priest and serial abuser Tony Walsh has received a sentence of one year imprisonment for the sexual assault of a child in the early 1970s.
Walsh was a seminarian at the time of the offence, which is the earliest recorded case of child abuse by him.
He went on to become known as the “Singing Priest” for his role in a travelling all-priest group before he was defrocked after his abuse of young boys began to emerge.
Walsh (61), formerly of North Circular Road, Dublin was convicted last December after a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of the indecent assault of a female at St Luke's, Kilbarron Park, Kilmore, Dublin on a unknown date between April 17, 1973 and September 9, 1976.
He had pleaded not guilty. The victim was aged between seven and ten at the time when Walsh locked her into a room and forced himself on her until he climaxed.
After the assault he told her it was only a game, stating: “We were only having fun, don't tell anyone”. Walsh is currently serving a 16-year sentence imposed on him in 2010 for the rape and abuse of three schoolboys.
Judge Catherine Murphy said the abuse had had “profound and damaging effects” on the victim, now aged 50. She imposed the maximum sentence of two years and ordered that it run consecutive to the termination of his current sentence in October 2020.
She suspended the final year on condition he keep the peace for that period.
Judge Murphy paid tribute to Detective Garda Shay Woods who the victim, in her impact report, described as “wonderful in every respect” and as the “light at the end of a tunnel” for her.
Det Gda Woods told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that the offence took place in a parish hall run at the time by the Sisters of Charity nuns. Walsh was living and studying in Clonliffe College in Drumcondra at the time and would go to the hall to help out with maintenance work.
The victim would also go to the hall on summer holidays and would get sweets as rewards for helping the nuns. The assault happened during a game of 'hide and seek' instigated by Walsh.
In her victim impact report the woman said she blamed herself for the assault and for bringing “this awful shame” on her family. She said Walsh was doted over in the community and thought of as “God himself”.
She suffered from moderately severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which involved having recurrent images of Walsh. A psychological report noted that she felt dirty growing up, suffered panic attacks and felt very low at times.
After the game of 'hide and seek' began with a number of other children Walsh took the victim to hide in another room off the hall. He locked the door and placed the child on the ground.
He then began gyrating on top of her and holding her tightly while licking her face and neck. The victim remembered that Walsh was aroused and was banging his pelvic area into her.
He had his hands on her bottom and touched her private parts outside her clothing. The attack only stopped after he ejaculated. Walsh told the girl afterwards: “This is only a game. We were only having fun. Don’t tell anyone.”
Other children were banging on the door at this point and Walsh opened it. The victim was screaming from inside the room and ran out after the door was opened, the court heard.
Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, defending, submitted to the court that public awareness of the whole area of child sexual abuse was far more limited at the time of these offences.
He argued that accordingly if his client had been prosecuted at the time he would have received a lenient sentence. Judge Murphy did not agree that this was necessarily true.
Counsel said his client came from a respectable family and was originally from Westland Row in Dublin city centre. He was aged between 19 and 22 at the time of the offence.