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Gym owner who abused girl (14) he said reminded him of his wife is jailed for 16 months

The victim in the case, now a woman in her 40s, told how the events of the last 30 years have not just ruined her life but have also torn her extended family apart.
Eamann O'Hairtghaile at an earlier siting of Letterenny Circuit Court.  (NW Newspix)

Eamann O'Hairtghaile at an earlier siting of Letterenny Circuit Court. (NW Newspix)

Eamann O'Hairtghaile at an earlier siting of Letterenny Circuit Court.  (NW Newspix)

Eamann O'Hairtghaile at an earlier siting of Letterenny Circuit Court. (NW Newspix)

Stephen MaguireSunday World

A businessman who sexually abused a 14-year-old girl while on holiday in Co Donegal said she reminded him of his wife.

Gym owner Eamon O'Hartghaile was 32 years old when he abused the young girl who was related to him by marriage.

O'Hartghaile appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court where he pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual abuse of the girl in Clonmany in July, 1991.

O'Hartghaile, now 63, is related to the victim by marriage and was staying with the girl's aunt when the assaults happened.

The court heard how O'Hartghaile crept into the bedroom where the girl was staying at 6.30am.

The victim said she was wearing a night shirt and felt a hand touching her chest and when she woke she noticed her uncle leaving the room as the light from the hallway shone in.

The following night at 1am she awoke to find O'Hartghaile kissing her on the lips but she told him to stop and he left the room.

The following year the girl went back to stay in Clonmany and O'Hartghaile approached her and asked her if she had told her daddy what had happened.

He said it was the first time anything like this had happened and it would be the last and also apologised to the girl.

A complaint about the assaults were made to the RUC in 1993 and O'Hartghaile, of Caman Crescent, Ballycastle, Co Antrim, was invited to cooperate but declined and due to various factors no prosecution was directed.

Then while on holiday in Ballycastle, Co Antrim in 2006 the girl, now a young woman, spotted him working in a local leisure centre which alarmed her as there were lots of children about.

She contacted social services in Northern Ireland in July 2007 and they reopened the case and in January, 2010 she made a formal written statement of complaint to Gardai in Donegal.

A social worker said that O'Hartghaile had admitted in 2007 that he abused the girl and that he regretted it.

Eamann O'Hairtghaile at an earlier siting of Letterenny Circuit Court.  (NW Newspix)

Eamann O'Hairtghaile at an earlier siting of Letterenny Circuit Court. (NW Newspix)

In 2010, detectives from the PSNI asked if he would be voluntarily interviewed by them or the Gardai but after consulting with his solicitor, O'Hartghaile refused to be interviewed by either.

In 2011, he said he wished to talk to the PSNI about the allegations and in one interview conducted by police on April 19th, 2012 he handed in a prepared statement in which he denied sexually assaulting the girl.

When allegations were put to him he declined to comment.

However, he later made a full confession to the assaults between July 1st and July 31st, 1991 at a named townland in Clonmany.

When interviewed by police, O'Hartghaile said he had no interest in children sexually and that the victim had reminded him of his wife.

The victim in the case, now a woman in her 40s, told how the events of the last 30 years have not just ruined her life but have also torn her extended family apart.

She told how her own immediate family have been treated like outsiders even though they had done nothing wrong.

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She also spoke of her own anxiety and depression and how she didn't visit Donegal for several years out of fear.

She added she still has a knot in her stomach, partly out of fear but also of disgust and anger.

She looked at O'Hartghaile and said "I don't know how you live with yourself."

However, she added that although he once had control she has now taken control back and she will live her life as a survivor of abuse and not as a victim.

"The truth is out and I can get on with my life," she added.

O'Hartghaile told his victim in court that he was sorry for all he had brought on the victim's family and directly on her and all the hurt he had caused.

"I have been sorry since the night after it happened," he added.

He said he was lucky that he has a close family and he was sorry to them also for the "mess I have brought to their lives and to everybody's lives. I'm sorry."

Barrister for the accused, Mr Gareth McCrory, said his client had no previous convictions and had saved the victim from being cross-examined by entering a plea.

He added that his client had complied with all his bail conditions and has no cases pending either in the Republic or Northern Ireland.

He added that a psychiatric report on his client had put him as a low risk of reoffending and was not a danger to children.

Mr McCrory added that a token of remorse of €5,000 had been offered to the victim but the court was later told that this was not accepted by the woman.

The victim said that she wanted her abuser named.

Passing sentence Judge Aylmer said the maximum sentence at the time of the offence was five years in prison which had been amended significantly but that he had to deal with it on the date of the offence.

He placed the assaults on thee lower end of the scale but one which merited a sentence of two years before mitigation.

He said some admissions had been made as long ago as 1995 but for various reasons prosecutions never ensued.

He noted that the accused had "strenuously" fought extradition from Northern Ireland seeking to take the matter to the Supreme Court saying this added to the victim's ordeal.

He said O'Hartghaile has lived with an appropriate sense of guilt all his life and that he was conscious of the rifts in his extended family.

He also said the accused had the matter hanging over him for 32 years and has suffered from a great deal of anxiety and stress and that he underwent a triple heart bypass.

With mitigation he said he was reducing the two year sentence to one of sixteen months.


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