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court sentencing Rugby coach who abused 23 pupils was given an office despite allegations being raised with senior staff


John McClean abused the boys between 1973 and 1990 while he worked for Terenure College

John McClean abused the boys between 1973 and 1990 while he worked for Terenure College

John McClean abused the boys between 1973 and 1990 while he worked for Terenure College

A rugby coach who has admitted to abusing 23 pupils at a Dublin fee-paying school was given an office despite the abuse being raised with senior staff 40 years ago, a court has heard.

This morning the sentencing hearing of John McClean (76) began at Dublin Circuit Court, where he has pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting 23 students at Terenure College between 1973 and 1996.

The former English teacher, who went on to coach rugby at UCD, had initially denied the allegations in garda interviews. The offences occurred in a range of situations including in classrooms, after sports events, ahead of school plays and in his office.

The court heard that the school was notified of one victim being abused during a custom fitting in 1979. Evidence was given that McClean was removed from these duties that year, but that in 1981 he was given an office after being appointed first year headmaster. The abuse then continued in his office, the court heard.

Gardaí also said that current management at the school at provided "considerable assistance" to their investigation.

Prosecutor Paul Murray SC said that McClean, of Cashmir Avenue, Harolds Cross, pleaded guilty to the first count relating to each complainant. Where there were five or more charges, the accused has pleaded guilty to the first and last charges.

Eight of the incidents happened relating to a school play, nine in his office, three in relation to a sports setting and three in a classroom scenario.

John McClean was interviewed about six of the allegations between May and June 2018 and denied knowledge of each incident.

He told gardaí that he did not believe they happened, and after speaking with his solicitor said: "I'll go stronger than that, I didn't do those things."

The prosecutor then took Inspector Jason Miley, of Crumlin garda station, through each complainant chronologically.

The first indecent assault took place in 1979 on a 12-year-old pupil at the school.

The court heard McClean took a hardback book from the boy and, when the victim attempted to get the copy back, he was abused.

Evidence was given that the pupil was called up to McClean's desk in class when the teacher pulled him towards him, exposing him to his erect penis, in an episode which lasted around 10 minutes.

The victim told gardaí that McClean "always wore a gown and used this to disguise what he was doing".

After the attack he spent his days "mithcing" from school and was too terrified to face John McClean.

He said he felt "cheated out of an education" and later went to gardaí so that his voice, and that of other victims', would be heard.

The next assault happened in March 1974 during after-school studies.

The victim (14) said he had thought of McClean as a good and enjoyable English teacher prior to the abuse.

He said McClean told him they were friends and to call him 'John', and that he was "enchanted by this at first".

The victim recalled on one occasion John McClean was sitting behind him and that the teacher then put his hands on the boy's genital area and massaged him.

On another occasion McClean was sitting on a desk sexually aroused and pulled the teenager into to his legs and towards his genital area.

The victim said that after this he avoided the English teacher's classes, and when he returned he didn't engage in the class.

Inspector Miley said that the victim has recently had surgery and told him that he wasn't in the right frame of mind to provide a victim impact statement.

The court then heard of the next complainant, who was 13 when he was abused by John McClean in 1974.

The indecent assault took place in the school after a football blitz. The victim had injured his leg during the tournament and on returning to school days later was informed that McClean wanted to see him.

He said McClean massaged his leg, and then proceeded to rub his hands against his genital area during the assault which lasted about ten minutes.

The defendant also denied these allegations during garda interview and later in a voluntary statement.

In a victim impact statement the victim, who is now married with four children, said he was embarrassed and suffered from anxiety after the assault.

He said that in the aftermath Terenure College was not a safe place for him and that he has since undergone years of professional counselling.

The now 59-year-old added that he would like to see a landmark monument in the school as a daily reminder to both honour the victims and their future intent to honour the human rights of pupils.

The next abuse took place between 1977 and 1978 on a 15-year-old boy and the court heard that the assault took place in a classroom.

Mr Murray said that the teenager had been caught playing with a tennis ball in class and that John McClean, while attempting to retrieve the ball, put his hands over the student's penis for a number of minutes.

In a voluntary statement McClean denied this, saying it was "completely brazen" and "with every eye in the classroom on the two of us".


John McClean admitted to abusing 23 pupils at Terenure College

John McClean admitted to abusing 23 pupils at Terenure College

John McClean admitted to abusing 23 pupils at Terenure College

The complainant of this assault said he was suffered a lifetime of phycological affects and depression, which led to him being hospitalised following a suicide attempt.

Later between 1978 and 1979 McClean abused a 13-year-old pupil ahead of a school play. The victim said he was alone in a dressing room underneath the stage getting into custom when the teacher approached him and offered to help.

"He put his hand into my underwear and began molesting my testicles, penis and back passage," he later told gardaí of the abuse.

The victim added that during the assault, which lasted around 10 minutes, McClean laughed and grinned as he pulled the child towards him.

He said at the time of the attack he was left feeling vulnerable and completely under the control of John McClean.

In his victim impact statement, he said McClean was a highly regarded figure in the school who he both respected and feared, and that the abuse had left him scarred.

Wiping away tears while reading his statement out, the now 52-year-old man said that he wanted to draw a line under the episode and that being a father of young children he was determined not to let this ruin his life.

He said he regretted that he was ignored by his former school when he brought the matter to them, and that he regretted being a pupil at Terenure College.

That same year McClean also abused another pupil who was aged 14 during a costume fitting for a school play.

The victim said that the teacher was helping him to put on pantaloons when he moved up the teenager's tight into his underpants and molested him.

"I recalled being petrified and not knowing what to do," the complainant later told gardaí

The court heard that the issue was raised with older students who brought it to the attention of the then-principal.

John McClean was removed from involvement in costume fitting in 1979, but two years later was made year head of first year student's and was given his own office.

Inspector Miley said that a statement was taken from the former principal who said he had no recollection of the "serious allegations" being brought to his attention.

In 1981 McClean went on to abuse a 14-year-old boy in his new office after summoning the pupil to discuss his year performance.

The English teacher abused the boy, whispering to him that he needed to be punished, and that he later fondled the teenager's genitals for around 10-15 minutes.

The victim said that he returned home and decided never to return to Terenure College.

The court then heard evidence of another incident, between 1983 and 1984, in which John McClean abused a 12-year-old in his office.

Evidence was given that the child was beaten and massaged on the buttocks of the outside of his trouser

After the indecent assault the teacher told him not to tell anyone. The complainant made a statement previously but this wasn't prosecuted.

Insp Miley said that once the other allegations came to light a decision was made to reassess that complaint.

The court then heard evidence of the repeated abuse of another student who played on the rugby team coached by McClean.

The assaults occurred between September 1989 and June 1990 and that the abuse took place in his office.

The victim told gardaí that John McClean would punish him by hitting him on the hand with a ruler, and that the abuse escalated to hitting him with the ruler on his bare bottom.

McClean told the teenager, who was 17 when the abuse started, that he would reward him for doing good work by letting the pupil hit him.

This also escalated from striking McClean on the hand to hitting him with a ruler on his bare bottom.

He recalled one instance where the teacher was standing face to face with him, and that McClean was erect while hitting the child with the ruler.

"At that moment I realised what was going on and I told him I wanted to leave," he told gardaí.

The student said he was picked for rugby teams until sixth year, and believes that this happened because the grooming process stopped.

Insp Miley said that the victim did not provide a statement to the court as he wishes to move on.

The case continues before Judge Pauline Codd at Dublin Circuit Court this afternoon.

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