Number of accusers who have made Spiritan sex abuse claims rises to 300

Beleaguered congregation has been contacted by more than 60 people in past week alone

The number of people who have made allegations in relation to claims of abuse at Spiritans schools has risen to almost 300.

Within the past week, the Spiritan congregation has been “contacted by more than 60 people”, it was revealed at a press conference at the RDS in Dublin yesterday. The congregation had previously disclosed that 233 men had made allegations of abuse.

The Sexual Crime Management Unit at the Garda National Protective Services Bureau separately said it has received six contacts from individuals.

The Spiritan Congregation, which runs Blackrock College, issued another apology to former pupils who were survivors of historical sex abuse and representatives attended an event along with four former pupils of Blackrock College or its feeder school Willow Park, each an abuse survivor, who outlined details of the programme.


Liam Lally, safeguarding officer with the Spiritans, said at the press conference that the congregation had “been contacted by more than 60 people” since the RTÉ Radio 1 Blackrock Boys documentary programme was broadcast on Monday of last week.

“Most of those are from Blackrock or Willow Park,” he said.

Fr Martin Kelly, head of the Spiritans in Ireland, said: “What was done to you as innocent children was cruel and indefensible. We are deeply ashamed of these actions.”

Meanwhile, a man who is believed to be the first person to publicly allege sexual assault at Castleknock College has said that any fresh inquiry or review into historical abuse in schools should be extended.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Tom Maher (59), a former pupil of the west Dublin boarding school, alleged he was sexually assaulted by a priest teaching in Castleknock College on two separate occasions in the 1970s.

Mr Maher said he believed the school should not be “exempt” from any proposed inquiry or new investigation set up to examine past abuse.

He also said allegations of past child abuse of pupils in Castleknock College needed “impartial scrutiny”. Several fee-paying schools appeared to have been “overlooked” in previous State inquiries into child abuse, he said.

Correspondence from the Vincentian order shows that a preliminary canonical investigation into the allegations was opened after Mr Maher reported the alleged abuse last year.

The alleged perpetrator, who is living abroad where he had been serving as a priest until recent years, said he had no comment to make when questioned about the allegations.

The Vincentians did not respond to requests for comment on the case or about whether the order had previously paid settlements to former Castleknock pupils who had been alleged victims of abuse.

The Government has come under increasing pressure to commission some form of further State inquiry, following the fresh wave of allegations of historical abuse in schools.

Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he would give consideration to the “most effective way to have a victim-led approach”.

“The manner in which we go about this is important. And we do have to learn lessons from previous inquiries,” he said.

The Blackrock College past pupils’ union yesterday backed calls for a full inquiry, which it said should be independent and transparent, with published findings.

Four men who had been abused while pupils at Willow Park or Blackrock College took part in the press conference. John Coulter, one of those behind the initiative, said: “What we wanted from the outset was a victim-led process where the victim dictates how the process unfolds and what the outcomes… are.”

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times