Former Christian Brother (80s) jailed for sexual abuse of former students at Kilkenny school in 1970s

Liam Coughlan (87) was subject of largescale Garda investigation that started in 2010

A former Christian Brother has been sentenced to 4½ years in jail for the sexual abuse of 19 former students of a Co Kilkenny school in the 1970s.

Liam Coughlan (87), who is already in prison having been found guilty of the abuse of other boys in a trial earlier this year, is to serve the latest sentence from today.

After the sentence was handed down, two of his victims told The Irish Times that it did not make them want to celebrate.

“It doesn’t make me feel any better,” said one. “It was a long time getting here. So fair play to everyone.”


The Garda investigation that led to the conviction started in 2010 and involved interviews with hundreds of the man’s former students, the victim said. Sample cases were then taken for the purposes of the prosecution.

“It was the sheer scale of it,” he said. “The guards told me there were as many as 400 victims in this.”

“He was so old, we thought he would die before we ever saw this day,” said another man. “I was surprised when they came looking for us that he was still alive.”

The investigation had taken years because Coughlan had denied what he did up until earlier this year, the victim said. “There is a certain amount of satisfaction in today, but it doesn’t take back the last 50 years of your life.”

Coughlan, who is from Co Waterford and is now married, pleaded guilty earlier this month to 19 sample counts of indecently assaulting 19 boys in a Co Kilkenny school in the 1970s.

The abuse included assaults on the boys in class in front of their classmates, the judge noted. She said the fear and embarrassment the boys had suffered had tormented the men they became. There had also been an intergenerational aspect to the damage caused, as it had affected the men’s children and their partners.

He is currently serving a sentence of three years and two months given to him earlier this year when a jury found him guilty of 30 counts of indecent assault on a further five boys at the same school in the 1970s.

In statements read out earlier this month at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, the man’s victims said the impact of the abuse continues to this day and described how they had struggled with anxiety and had difficulty in forming relationships.

Patrick McGrath, prosecuting, told Judge Elma Sheahan that a Garda investigation, which started in 1998, led to no prosecution but that a second investigation involving multiple complainants led to charges being brought.

After the sentence was delivered by Judge Sheahan, Mr McGrath told her that all matters against Coughlan were now concluded and there was no reason why he could not be named by the media.

The judge said that among the mitigating factors she took into account was Coughlan’s age, the complex health issues he has, and the continued support of his wife. Coughlan sat in court wearing an anorak and staring at the floor.

The judge said she wanted to acknowledge the determination of the complainants in seeing Coughlan brought to justice.

The two men who spoke to The Irish Times afterwards said the Garda investigation had been “superb”.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent