“How these paedophiles operated in that school over such a lengthy period without discovery and without being stopped needs to be looked at.”
Bernard O’Hehir says he believes a ‘paedophile ring’ may have been in operation at St John’s National School at Temple St, Sligo and wants an investigation carried out to probe what links existed between the deviant educators.
A previous Garda investigation that led to the successful prosecution of a number of teacher at the school was unable to establish evidence that a ring was in operation.
Bernard was just 11 years old when he was abused by former teacher and serial abuser Patrick Curran at the school.
Last month, Judge Keenan Johnson sentenced Curran of Sheshkin Beg, Derrybeg, County Donegal, to two years in prison – with the final year suspended.
Curran had previously been sentenced to nine years in prison in 2006 for sexual assaulting nine other boys in St John’s National School, Temple St, Sligo, on dates ranging from 1966 to 1984.
On handing down sentencing, Judge Johnson said Curran was a prolific sexual abuser given his position as a teacher and said it was an appalling breach of trust.
Bernard O’Hehir waived his right to anonymity and has since told the Sunday World he wants a full independent probe to be carried out into the abuse at the school.
“How these paedophiles operated in that school over such a lengthy period without discovery and without being stopped needs to be looked at,” he said. “Were there people in authority who knew what was going on there? Were these men being protected?
“These are questions I want to know the answers to and questions every child in that school deserves to know the answers to.
“It was a schoolhouse of horrors for the children who went there.”
It emerged previously that Gardaí believe as many as 50 boys, and probably many more, were abused at St John’s boys’ primary school in Sligo by religious and lay teachers in a period stretching from the 1960s to the 1980s.
But, despite the first informal complaint being made as early as 1983, it took a further 16 years for a dedicated Garda investigation team to be appointed that led to the prosecution of five separate paedophile teachers.
In 2008, Marist brother Martin Meaney (then 65) was jailed for two years on five sample abuse charges. He denied that a paedophile ring was in operation at the school where he committed his crimes.
In 2005, Peter White (then 74) of Celbridge Abbey, Celbridge, Co Kildare, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to eight sample charges of indecent assault on two boys in the 1970s.
In 1999, retired teacher Michael Cunnane received a three-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to 11 counts of indecently assaulting three boys between 1974 and 1981. In 2001, he
received another suspended three-year sentence after admitting further counts of indecent assaults against five boys.