The ‘respected’ Blackrock College abusers who preyed on young children
:: Tributes paid to priests in obituaries ‘at odds with what later emerged’
They were the respected teachers and priests who were secretly preying on young boys at schools run by the Spiritans order.
One priest who sexually abused pupils was praised as being someone who “got very close to children”, who “cared for problem students” and “threw himself wholeheartedly” into his work at Blackrock College, Dublin.
Fr Gerard Hannan, who died in 1990, sexually assaulted a student after taking him into his office under the pretence that he was concerned for his welfare.
Yet on his death he was praised as someone who acted as an “unofficial counsellor” and was “particularly caring for problem students, who found him very approachable and understanding”.
The late Fr Tom O’Byrne, Fr Senan Corry and Fr Patrick Aloysius Flood, who have been at the centre of multiple sexual abuse allegations, are also included in a book that pays tribute to late members of the order.
Irish Spiritans Remembered published obituaries of every priest who served in the Holy Ghost Order, now known as the Spiritan congregation.
The first volume was written by the late Fr Sean Farragher, a former member of the Spiritans.
The book lists their academic achievements, the sports teams they coached, their missions abroad and the schools where they taught.
A spokesperson for the Spiritans said the obituaries “were written without access to, or oversight, by Spiritan Safeguarding”.
They added: “Regrettably – in this case and others – they present a picture that is at odds with what has subsequently emerged.”
Since David and Mark Ryan spoke this week of the abuse they suffered while studying at Blackrock College in the 1970s and 1980s, more people have come forward with allegations of abuse at nine schools run by the Spiritans.
It has now emerged that the abuse was not limited to male students at private schools.
At least 11 people were abused at a seminary in Dublin, while a female relative of a priest was also sexually assaulted.
Kimmage Manor has served as a retirement home for Spiritan priests, but was also a formation school for young men who wanted to enter the priesthood.
One man revealed how he joined Kimmage Manor as he felt it was his vocation to become a priest – until he was sexually abused.
He recalled playing croquet at the manor one day and said his instructor “leaned over my shoulders and proceeded to masturbate me”.
“While the focus has been on the better known schools. Kimmage Manor was every bit as rotten,” he told RTÉ’s Liveline.
A spokesperson for the Spiritans said: “To the best of our knowledge, there are 11 boys who were abused in Kimmage Manor. They all referred to one person who was convicted and served their sentence.”
On Monday, it was stated that allegations of abuse have been made by 233 people against 77 Irish Spiritans in ministries throughout Ireland and overseas. However, that number is growing.
Survivors of child sexual abuse are calling for an independent inquiry.
Michelle Flood, the niece of Fr Flood, known as Alo, said her uncle started sexually abusing her at home when she was five years old. She reported what happened to gardaí and to the Spiritans.
“I have days where I try not to get out of the bed,” she told Liveline.
“I’ve never had a voice in this. Nobody has ever listened. I don’t feel the church listened, even yesterday was probably the hardest day I’ve had. I’ve had so much despair. I feel so much for the other boys and all the victims and how it could have been stopped.
“The Holy Ghost Fathers could have stopped this long ago and they didn’t. It destroyed people’s lives.”
Fr Flood’s obituary states his first teaching appointment was to Willow Park School in 1960. He worked as dean of discipline there and was later employed as principal of St Michael’s School before returning to Blackrock as dean of the boarding school. Unlike the obituaries of other priests, Fr Flood’s did not contain any personal tributes. Neither did Fr O’Byrne’s.
Brothers David and Mark Ryan told RTÉ Radio’s Documentary on One of the harrowing abuse they suffered at the hands of Fr O’Byrne, who was originally from Limerick and began teaching in Blackrock in 1967.
His obituary lists his academic achievements including his honours degree in philosophy and diploma in education. It recalls how he went on a mission to Sierra Leone in 1984, taught for two years at a primary school and worked at both St Michael’s College in Dublin and Blackrock College.
There is no mention of the multiple charges brought against him for child abuse.
He denied the charges made against him and launched a legal case, seeking to halt criminal proceedings.
In 2007, the courts decided the criminal case should be halted due to his age.
He died in 2010, having never faced trial. His death notice on RIP.ie states he reposed at Kimmage Manor.
Fr Senan Corry, another priest accused of abusing multiple people, taught at Blackrock and Willow Park. He worked also in Nigeria.
His obituary states he is “remembered for his coaching of the junior rugby teams”.
Stephen, a man who was abused by Fr Corry in class, said: “What he used to do was, in the old school desks, they used to lift up the lids of the seats. So, he’d lift that up and he’d ram me between the corner of the desk in such a way that I couldn’t move because he’d have his hand around my neck.
“And then he would proceed to put his hands down the front of my trousers, down the back of my trousers and at the same time he would be rubbing himself against me.”
Afterwards, he would breathe in his ear and say: “This is our secret, you can’t tell anybody, nobody is going to believe a young lad like you against a priest.”
Lay people employed by the Spiritans also abused children.
Aidan Moore, who now lives in Kenya, said he was abused by former Christian Brother Edward Baylor.
Baylor previously taught at Christian Brothers schools throughout the UK before moving to Ireland, where he joined Willow Park.
A spokesperson for the Spiritans confirmed he was convicted of a child abuse offence in July 1988 in a court in Dundrum.
“He left our employment as soon as he was arrested on suspicion of abuse,” they said.
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