Former priest guilty of indecent assaults


A former religious brother and priest was in custody last night after being found guilty of 13 counts of indecently assaulting a schoolboy over 30 years ago. Con Desmond (77), with an address at Woodlands, Kilrush Road, Ennis, Co Clare, had denied 13 charges of indecently assaulting a boy at the St Stephen’s De La Salle national school in Waterford city, between 1977 and 1980.

After a five-day trial, a jury of seven women and five men returned majority 10-2 guilty verdicts on all 13 charges at Waterford circuit court yesterday.

The complainant, who was aged eight, nine and 10 at the time of the alleged offences, told the trial that Con Desmond – then known as Br Cornelius – abused him a number of times in the principal’s office of the school.

The accused showed no emotion in court as the verdicts were read out, while the victim wept quietly and held hands with his partner and other family members.

Sentencing was adjourned until February 19th to allow medical evidence and character evidence to be prepared. Mr Desmond was remanded in custody in the meantime.

The court heard he had a previous conviction for a “similar-type offence” which dated back to the same period, and for which he had received a suspended prison sentence.

Judge Donagh McDonagh turned down an application for bail until the sentencing hearing, ruling that the convictions were “very, very serious, given the relative status of the injured party and the guilty party”.

Br Cornelius served as headmaster of the St Stephen’s De La Salle school from 1977 to 1984. He later became a priest and worked in the diocese of Killaloe.

During the trial last week, the victim told the court that the first incident of indecent assault happened one morning in 1977 after he had cycled to school in the rain and got wet. He was sent to the principal’s office, where his clothes were removed to dry on the radiator, and Br Cornelius went on to indecently assault him.

The other instances of abuse happened on Saturdays between 1978 and 1980, the victim said, when Br Cornelius asked him to come into school to help out with cleaning.

According to the victim, Br Cornelius told him he was a “good boy” and his “buddy” and the victim told the court he felt special and that he’d been chosen by Br Cornelius to help with the school cleaning.

He was also “very scared,” however, and said the abuse physically hurt him and made him feel uncomfortable. When asked why he didn’t tell his parents or anyone else about what was happening, until he reported the matter to gardaí in 2006, he said the school headmaster wasn’t a person to be questioned at the time. “You don’t disrespect priests or people in authority or guards or whatever.” The trial heard the victim is taking a civil case against Desmond, and against the board of management of the St Stephen’s De La Salle School and against the De La Salle order. Following the victim’s initial complaint in 2006, Desmond was arrested in 2007 – by appointment at Tipperary Garda station – and interviewed by detectives. When the allegations were put to him, he said they were “total imagination”, “total fabrication” and “totally false”.