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Justice Victim of paedophile coach John McClean who abused 23 schoolboys slams apology as 'empty words'

Speaking after the eight-year prison term was imposed on the serial abuser, Damien Hetherington said that it is some closure for the victims.

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Victim Damien Hetherington pictured speaking to media outside Dublin Central Criminal Court this afternoon. Pic Collins Courts

Victim Damien Hetherington pictured speaking to media outside Dublin Central Criminal Court this afternoon. Pic Collins Courts

Victim Damien Hetherington pictured speaking to media outside Dublin Central Criminal Court this afternoon. Pic Collins Courts

The first reported victim of serial paedophile John McClean has said the former rugby coach "got what he deserved" after being jailed for eight years today.

Damien Hetherington (59) was abused by the English teacher during a class in 1973 while trying to retrieve a copybook.

The indecent assault led to Mr Hetherington, then aged 12, to avoid McClean's English classes and he spent his days hiding in the park across the school "sick with worry".

He was the first reported victim of McClean who went on to abuse at least 22 more schoolboys at Terenure College.

Speaking after the eight-year prison term was imposed on the serial abuser, Damien Hetherington said that it is some closure for the victims.

He also said that the Carmelite Order, who run the school, should reflect on what has happened.

"The dogs in the street were barking about this particular individual for the 30 years he was there but he was still left there."

Asked about an apology read out in court on behalf of his former teacher, Mr Hetherington said it was "empty words" and means nothing.

"No, it's a bit late for that. I mean if there is such a thing, when I heard the other cases compared to my own, some of the things he did to the other lads. He should be locked up for the rest of his life for what he did to some of the others. The apology doesn't mean anything, it's just empty words."

Throughout the three days Dublin Circuit Court sat for the sentencing hearing, John McClean kept his head down and covered his face with his hand.

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John McClean abused boys at Terenure College

John McClean abused boys at Terenure College

John McClean abused boys at Terenure College

Mr Hetherington said he felt anger watching him in the dock, but that he was now looking at an old man who got away with the abuse for most of his life.

"Obviously he couldn't look at any of us in the eye and his head was down all the time. He's gone now to where he should have been 25 years ago.

"You can't really blame him, how could he look at us. He had his head down all day today, I don't care whether he looks at me or not.

"The thing is he's exposed now, he got what he deserves, and I would encourage any more victims to please come forward, its' never too late.

"This has been a scar on this country for God knows how long. Not just the clergy, teachers and that but sports and everything. But for anyone else please come forward, you'd be surprised how good you'll feel".

Asked what he would say to other victims, Mr Hetherington said: "I would say never give up. I would never have thought 47 years later I'd be standing here. 47 years it took me to get this. So don't give up, follow it up, the guards will put in the work. They put in the work and this is the result".

He recalled seeing McClean in a restaurant in the years after the abuse, and described how we wanted to "put him back down the stairs" from the pain he'd caused, but that it wasn't in him to do that.

In their victim impact statements other complainants described McClean as "evil personified", with one saying he crossed paths with the devil in Terenure College.

This afternoon John McClean (76) was led away by prison officers to begin an eight-year sentence for sexually abusing 23 schoolboys.

His defence had unsuccessfully applied for the custodial sentence to be deferred until McClean received a Covid-19 vaccine due to his age and underlying health conditions.

He will be well into his 80s by the time he is released from prison for the systematic abuse he carried out over three decades.

In a statement this afternoon Terenure College said the school, and the Carmelite Order, failed in their duty to protect the schoolboys.

Gardaí had told the court that the current management at the school had assisted greatly with the investigation.

In their statement the school said: "Fr Éanna Ó hÓbáin, Principal of Terenure College, and Fr Michael Troy, Provincial of the Carmelite Order in Ireland, recognise the devastating and long-lasting impact this has had on the lives of the victims and survivors and the lives of their families and friends.

"Fr Ó hÓbáin and Fr Troy said that on behalf of Terenure College and the Carmelite Order they are deeply sorry and apologise unreservedly to the former pupils who were abused as young students.

"We understand that words of apology are never adequate when people have experienced so much pain and suffering over many years. These men were entrusted to our care when starting out in life - young boys full of hope, promise and joy.

"They had that hope and promise cruelly taken from them as a result of the sexual abuse perpetrated upon them by John McClean. Terenure College and the Carmelite Orde failed in their duty to protect them and for this we are truly sorry.

"We wish to also acknowledge the suffering of the families of those who were abused as they learned of the gross violation of their son, brother, father, partner or husband while at our school.

"Terenure College and the Carmelite Order are wholly committed to providing effective and meaningful support to former pupils who are victims and survivors of abuse. We are available to anyone who wishes to contact us through the school or the Carmelite Safeguarding Office. They will have our full support.

"Terenure College and the Carmelite Order fully co-operate with the Gardai and all relevant authorities in Child Protection matters," the statement said.

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