Abuser Patrick O’Brien gained parents’ trust via volunteer work

Man pleaded guilty to 48 sample counts of indecent assault in addition to sexual assault


In a country which has seen its share of horrific child-sex abuse cases, the case of Patrick O’Brien still manages to stand out.

O’Brien, a prolific paedophile, molested and raped 14 young boys, over four decades.

He pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 48 sample counts of indecent assault and sexual assault between 1977 and 2010 at numerous locations around the country. There were a total of 128 charges in the book of evidence.

Reporters, who have sat through many harrowing murder trials, left court upset as the details of calculated and brazen sexual abuse of the boys was read into the record.

Those who knew him say O’Brien (76) came across as nice man who lived with his mother, volunteered at St Patrick’s Cathedral and had a penchant for classic cars and yachts.

His volunteer work allowed him to gain the trust of the parents whose children he then abused. They welcomed him into their home, not knowing that it was, for him, a route to abuse.

O’Brien’s first victim was raped as a nine-year-old boy in a field after his parents had given O’Brien permission to take him on a road trip.

The last time O’Brien abused this boy was in his own bedroom on the pretence of tucking him into bed, minutes after he had shared a meal with the family and the boy’s parents downstairs. The rest of the family were still at the table as he abused the boy just metres away.

In another home, O’Brien read one little boy a bedtime story, while forcing his older brother, who was lying in the bottom bunk, to perform oral sex on him.

O’Brien later raped this boy on the child’s parents’ bed. The couple had left O’Brien babysitting their sons.

This victim’s younger brother was also abused by O’Brien from the age of six to 15 years old. He was forced to masturbate or perform oral sex on O’Brien 30-50 times.

Slashed wrists

One boy was entrusted into O’Brien’s care on the night that his grandfather had died. True to form, the prolific abuser took the opportunity to molest the child.

O’Brien also abused and raped boys in close proximity to other people, including his own mother. On one occasion he abused a boy in an electrical room while parishioners in St Patrick’s Cathedral prayed just metres away. Another boy was molested in a cabin on O’Brien’s boat, while his father and two brothers slept in bunks nearby.

In one of his final acts in 2009, O’Brien went to a classic car event with the victim and his family. He molested the boy under a table while continuing to talk to people who sat around him. The boy later told gardaí that he felt powerless to do anything.

O’Brien often took two friends out to the industrial estate where he worked to teach them to drive. One of them was allowed to drive his vintage car around the estate unsupervised, while O’Brien took the other boy into the office to abuse him.

On another occasion O’Brien said to the terrified teenager “It’s time you had fun, too,” before he tried to perform oral sex on him. When the boy’s penis would not become erect, he stormed off in a huff telling the child, “This is a f***ing waste of time.”

Destroyed childhoods

Four of O’Brien’s victims were in court for the hearing. The men became visibly distressed as prosecuting counsel Anne Rowland read out their accounts of lost innocence.

It was clear that the abuse was still so fresh and raw 20 years later. One man told gardaí that he could still recall the physical pain of the rape when he made his statement.

Two of the boys were convinced they would contract Aids while the epidemic was top of the news agenda in the 1980s. They spent many hours terrified they were going to die.

One victim said the fact he could not talk about the abuse directly led to his marriage breakdown while another man told gardaí how he was terrified he would abuse his own daughter because research had suggested abused children become abusive adults.

One man said that as a 44-year-old man he felt he had missed his chance to get married and have children. He never had the confidence to even approach a woman. Another victim spoke of his regret that he did not disclose the abuse earlier because he felt he could have put a stop to O’Brien abusing other boys.

Defence barrister Seán Guerin SC, told Judge Melanie Greally that his client was truly remorseful and ashamed of his actions. He said O’Brien had been abused himself as a child.

He has spent 312 hours in group psychotherapy trying to understand his own behaviour.