Victim of Terenure College paedo says ‘I didn’t get any apology, no ‘we’re sorry what happened’
As John McClean is sentenced for abusing 22 more boys, the victims ask where was the religious order that ran the school in all of this
Despite all their pain and the passage of so many years, the victims of John McClean were still left with the same question as before: Where was Terenure College in all of this?
Outside the courthouse the men, although relieved their ordeal was over, questioned why nobody from the school had issued a personal apology. None had received any contact since coming forward with revelations of how they had been terrorised and abused during their time there.
McClean (78), of Casimir Avenue, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, is already serving an 11-year sentence, with the final three years suspended, imposed in 2021 for abusing 23 pupils at the school.
After the former teacher and rugby coach was sentenced to an extra four years in prison for his admissions to sexually abusing 22 more boys at Terenure College, the Carmelite Order yesterday issued a statement, acknowledging McClean as “a serial abuser who wreaked havoc on the lives of the students that he abused in Terenure College.”
“It was a grave failure that he was not stopped, and for this, we are truly sorry,” they said.
McClean was able to prey on students at the school over three decades despite his behaviour being raised with authorities at the time.
He has admitted to abusing 45 boys at the school – making him the most prolific known child abuser in the history of the State.
But victims yesterday questioned why the school had failed to send a representative to the court for the sentencing hearing.
Damien Hetherington – who was 12 when he was abused by McClean and was the earliest reported case – said he would have expected somebody representing Terenure College to be there. “I’m sure they had somebody watching proceedings, but they didn’t have anybody representing them,” he said.
“I didn’t get any letter of apology or anything like that. I have no contact from them. My solicitor has been on to them all right, but there’s no ‘we’re sorry what happened to you guys.’”
Two other men who have not waived their anonymity – with one telling how his elderly parent was still alive and does not know about the abuse – also said that they had expected someone from Terenure to be present.
One man said he had told his wife after many years, having earlier been opposed to his child playing rugby. Telling her had been the best thing he had ever done, he said, and he paid tribute to her and their children for helping him to process what had happened to him as a young boy.
The statement from the Carmelite order added: “Our public apologies seem paltry in the wake of the harrowing accounts of abuse and its devastating consequences that former students have given in their statements to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Once again, we are humbled by the courage shown by victims and survivors in their pursuit of justice.”
The order said it was “committed to supporting those abused in their schools and other ministry settings”.
“Anyone who was abused in a Carmelite school or other ministry setting can access support through the Carmelite safeguarding office. Counselling and therapy for victims and survivors can be arranged through the Towards Healing service,” the order said.
Paul Kennedy, who waived his anonymity in order to tell his story following Thursday’s hearing, described the statement as “mealy-mouthed”.
“This is not an apology. It’s a surface apology – that we have to be seen to be doing something,” he told the Irish Independent. “They hadn’t the b*lls to turn up in court or to contact us directly. The human apology hasn’t come.
“There was nobody in the courtroom – there should have been a member of the Carmelite community there.
“But I wasn’t even slightly shocked or surprised that there wasn’t. We were going to school in an environment that was hostile, so what do we expect?”
Nevertheless, Mr Kennedy said he was delighted with the four-year sentence meted out to McClean, saying: I don’t want to be a survivor or a victim. I’m giving gratitude to my 13-year-old warrior who kicked back at the system and gave the middle finger to those allowing it.”
McClean appeared in court wearing the same clothes as the day before – a blue woollen suit with a white and blue striped shirt.
Unlike the previous day, when evidence of his abuse was detailed in court, he did not cover his face in apparent shame.
He appeared to breathe rapidly for a period after entering the court but soon settled into a position of apparent indifference.
Judge Martin Nolan said the court had had to deal with the abuse of boys under the accused’s care over a protracted period of time.
“There are 22 complainants in the case, with some of them having been abused on a single occasion, and others were abused three, four, six, seven and up to eight times,” he said.
What McClean had done was “very, very wrong,” he said, and over a period of time, had abused these boys, while a teacher and in a position of trust.
“He used that position to gratify his own sexual desires,” he said, adding that this behaviour had a long-term effect on the boys who are now men.
“And it seems from the evidence that I have heard that no one took any steps to stop the abuse,” Judge Nolan said.
“He was determined and persistent and abused over a long period of time.”
The judge said there was mitigation in this case, with McClean’s guilty pleas, his expression of remorse, and the “well-deserved public shaming” which the accused has received.
He also took into consideration McClean’s age and that he is already serving a lengthy prison sentence.
Judge Nolan set a prison term of four years, to run consecutive to the current sentence which expires in February 2027. No portion of the sentence was suspended, and the judge said McClean will be 85 when released.
He said it was hoped it might “bring about a change in him” and that he did not believe he would pose a danger to others on his release, given his age.
He ended the hearing by thanking the complainants, who sat at the back of the court, as well as one who had watched the sentencing from abroad via a video link.
As the courtroom cleared, McClean beckoned his legal counsel to come towards him with an imperious finger.
For his victims, it was an old and familiar gesture, Paul Kennedy said afterwards.
“We all recognised it from when he used to roam the corridors. That finger meant that you were in trouble,” he said.
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