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'every parent's nightmare' Ex-teacher who groomed girl (13) for sex can be named, says judge

Senior sources have described the case as "chilling".

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Cian Cooney

Cian Cooney

Cian Cooney

A JUDGE has ordered that a former teacher who engaged in multiple acts of defilement, sexual exploitation and grooming of a 13-year-old schoolgirl can be named.

Cian Cooney (35) of Ballymahon, Co Longford, is serving a five-year jail sentence.

During a sitting of Longford Circuit Court in Mullingar earlier this week Judge Keenan Johnson ruled that Cooney can now be named.

Senior sources have described the case as "chilling" and "every parent's worst nightmare". In a statement, his now 21-year-old victim, said: "This man made me feel like I was completely worthless and undeserving of any support because I let this happen."

In January, Judge Johnson sentenced him to six-and-a- half years in jail with the final 18 months suspended after Cooney pleaded guilty last year to five offences committed between October and December 2013.

Cooney had previously worked as a PE and geography teacher at a well-known south Dublin secondary school.

He was arrested there by detectives from Longford garda station in February, 2018 - and when first questioned, denied any involvement in the offences. He is well known in GAA circles and was previously the captain of the Ballymahon football team. But behind his the public facade, Cooney was a sexual predator who groomed an innocent child.

The sex offender, who was living in Lucan at the time, was charged in May, 2019 and has since lost his job. Last May he pleaded guilty to four counts of having sex with a child under 15 and one charge of sexual exploitation.

At a hearing last October, Longford Circuit Court heard that Cooney had befriended the 13-year-old by sending her a friend request via a bogus Facebook page in August 2013.

They subsequently met in a car park in Longford Town and the man told the girl he was 18 when he was in fact 28

The court heard Cooney would pick the girl up in his car and drive to her home.

In October 2013, they had sex for the first time after watching a film. A number of similar incidents occurred in the following months, including in Cooney's car.

The meetings stopped in December after a Facebook message from Cooney before he resumed contact in May 2015 via social media.

Garda investigations led by Detective Damien McGovern began in 2016 after the girl was told that Cooney couldn't go on a weekend away with her due to a sports injury.

The girl told her parents and they became aware that the son of a close acquaintance had also suffered a similar injury and a Facebook search revealed his identity.

During a court sitting in October, it emerged that Cooney wrote a letter of apology, claiming he "never thought I would be capable of such things" and that "I lied to you, I lied to gardaí and I was also lying to myself."

In a statement, his victim said: "I'm ashamed by how naive I was as a 13-year-old girl and how blinded I was by "my first love" to completely miss the red flags and all that was wrong with that relationship.

"I'm ashamed because I believed that the relationship was real and when I found out the truth, I blamed everything on myself."

In her statement, the abuse survivor described going through five years of hell from the age of 13 and suffered from anger, insecurity, loneliness and sadness. However, when she did report Cooney's abuse, she felt that she "was now looking at my 13-year-old self as someone I should stand up for and protect.

"I almost had a motherly instinct for the little girl that went through all of that pain. I also imagined all of the kids that he is working with or meets in life, even if he doesn't physically harm them, the thought of him looking at or thinking about any of them the wrong way made me feel sick," she said.

"I knew I had to stand up for my 13-year-old self, and all the other kids that could possibly ever cross his way."

The woman said that she still suffers from insecurities and is receiving counselling.

Gardaí have commended the woman's bravery in coming forward and telling her story.

"What she went through as a child at the hands of Cooney was absolutely appalling and it is every parent's worst nightmare," a senior source said.

"For Cooney, who was a teacher, to abuse his position of trust and to groom a child for his own sexual gratification in such a chilling way is just unforgivable."

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