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‘They roamed freely at night. We were easy prey,’ says Willow Park abuse survivor

Call for watchdog to oversee complaints in relation to schools in wake of documentary about sexual abuse by Spiritans

All these years later “Brian” (a pseudonym) cannot bring himself to discuss what was done to him by Fr Aloysius Flood and Fr Senan Corry at Willow Park School on Dublin’s Blackrock College campus in the 1970s.

Speaking to The Irish Times, he recalled how “my life changed when I was woken up one night and seriously sexually assaulted by Flood. I was a pious, innocent 11-year-old asleep in my bed, boarding at Willow Park. I had no idea what was going on.”

The Spiritan congregation, formerly the Holy Ghost Fathers, have disclosed that 233 men have made allegations of abuse against 77 Irish Spiritans in ministries throughout Ireland and overseas. Of that number, 57 men have alleged they were abused on the campus of Blackrock College in Dublin.

Fr Flood and Fr Corry “were rapacious”, said Brian. “They roamed freely at night. I was abused by both, as so many others were too,” he said.


“They even had their plush priest bedrooms right beside our dorm. We were easy prey. My roommate in my final year at Blackrock broke down one night while telling me of terrible abuse at the hands of Flood. To my shame I couldn’t bring myself to tell him about my history because of my own deep shame that vile animal left me with.”

‘Clearly aware’

Meanwhile, another former past pupil of Blackrock College who claims he was physically and sexually abused by a priest has said nobody should be shocked at recent revelations about the school.

John O’Dwyer, who attended Blackrock and its feeder school Willow Park, until 1976, said priests and pupils there were “clearly aware of what was going on”.

He described Blackrock College as the “wild west of private Catholic education” and that it being a single-sex environment contributed to the opportunities for abuse, as recently outlined in an RTÉ radio documentary.

Mr O’Dwyer (65) now lives in Chicago and said that until recently he had blotted out much of what had happened to him.

He was minded to go public following a statement from the Blackrock union which represents past pupils.

‘Moral supports’

Last week, RTÉ's Radio 1′s Doc on One broadcast a programme featuring brothers Mark and David Ryan who were repeatedly sexually abused both in and around the grounds of Blackrock College. These abusers were from the community of the Holy Ghost Order who ran the college. The order is now known as the Spiritans.

In a statement on its website, the Blackrock union responded by stating it could offer “practical and moral supports on a confidential basis”. The union represents 8,000 pupils of both schools, of whom 3,000 are part of its online community.

Mr O’Dwyer said he had not made a formal complaint, but had been physically abused by a priest on an almost daily basis.

On at least one occasion he said he was sexually abused. When he told his mother she didn’t believe him and told him not to repeat it elsewhere.

Mr O’Dwyer, who has lived in the United States since 1984, said there was a need for a “permanent, independent watchdog overlooking and taking seriously any future complaints that may occur in an all-boys school”.

“This watchdog should be overseen by a board that is completely independent of Blackrock College and should also cover any other secondary school run by religious organisations that have these very same issues.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times